The recently held AGM of WildTeam unanimously nominated Nahar Khan, Director, UNB, and Vice President, Cosmos Group, as a member of WildTeam. Nahar loves wildlife. But she feels sad when she finds our rich biodiversity is under threat and wonders whether her young daughter will grow up to see our precious natural bounties. If not, wouldn't she blame Nahar for not preserving it?
Nahar's passion for wildlife got firmly cemented after she visited Kenya. It was so unique that she felt that her real-life education started from there. Since then she has been volunteering and raising funds for WildTeam. She wants to engage more people, especially women, in conservation because conserving the amazing natural resources of Bangladesh is not just a one-woman job.
WildTeam (formerly known as Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh) was founded in 2003 by a group of passionate Bangladeshi nature lovers. Its vision is a future with greater evidence reflecting the diversity of life, flora and fauna on earth. Since 2008, WildTeam has been working in the mangrove forest ecosystem in the Sundarbans, home to the national animal of Bangladesh, the Bengal tiger. The Sundarbans suffer one of the severest Human Tiger Conflict. As you would be aware, tiger and its prey poaching has emerged as a major threat for the country's last tiger stronghold. It is WildTeam's view that if the threats of tiger and prey poaching and stray tiger killing are eliminated, or at any rate, reduced, then the tiger population can recover through normal reproduction. Bearing this in mind WildTeam took the initiative to build the community consciousness with a view to eliminating or reducing human tiger conflict and, helping conserve the habitat of the Bengal tiger, which is also Bengal's pride.
WildTeam has built up social capital in the villages along the full periphery of the forest to develop a nature friendly buffer area of villages and mobilise local people for nature conservation. It supports the villagers in managing human-wildlife conflict along the forest periphery through the mobilisation and in-kind support of 49 volunteer Village Tiger Response Teams (VTRT) in about 80 percent of the adjacent villages of the Sundarbans. It mobilises and inspires Youth through TigerScout initiative. WildTeam identified 55 BaghBandhus ("friends of the tiger/tiger ambassadors") along the periphery who, together with the TigerScouts and VTRTs are the local change makers. WildTeam also provides free drinking water through two of its field offices to the local villagers. The organisation now has an office in each of the four ranges of the Sundarbans, one of which has also the Sundarbans Interpretation Centre and training and accommodation facilities. WildTeam runs five Sundarbans Education Centres in the four ranges, which use local school rooms as venues.
The Sundarbans, the largest mangrove system in the world, is a world heritage site and one of the most important natural assets of Bangladesh: it shelters our people from storms, provides food and building materials for millions, and is home to a spectacular array of biodiversity, including the tiger. Yet astonishingly there is no centre to celebrate the Sundarbans and reinforce local and national pride in this beautiful forest. There is no place for visitors to learn about their incredible natural asset and about how they can take care of it and contribute to its conservation. There is no place to house the voice of the Sundarbans, to tell her story and to convey her needs for the future.
The Sundarbans Interpretation Centre (SIC) will be the country's first interpretation centre on the Sundarbans. It will be set up with the goal of increasing knowledge and pro-environmental attitudes amongst local people, national tourists, and international visitors. With the support from IUCN-KfW WildTeam was able to build the infrastructure of the centre at Joymoni, Chandpai, Mongla, Baherhat, but needs funds to install the exhibits and make it functional. As a member of WildTeam, Nahar Khan's first priority will be to explore funds to make the Sundarbans Interpretation Centre functional and save the Sundarbans, along with the pride of Bengal, the Bengal Tiger.
Dr Md. Anwarul Islam is the CEO of WildTeam. He is the former Professor and Chairman of the Department of Zoology of Dhaka University.
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