An eight-day-long Wildlife Crime Control and Wildlife Handling training for local volunteers has been conducted at the WildTeam Conservation Biology Centre (WCBC), Joymonir Ghol, Chandpai, Mongla from 9 to 16 June 2022. Wildlife Crime Control Unit (WCCU) of the Bangladesh Forest Department (BFD) organised this training programme under the Wildlife Conservation and Habitat Development project of Bangladesh where a total of 30 volunteers participated from five upazilas namely Mongla, Rampal, Sarankhola, Morrelganj, and Dacope of Bagerhat district.

The objective of the training was to enhance the knowledge of wildlife conservation and the capacity of the volunteers for wildlife handling. Mr. A. S. M. Jahir Uddin Akon, Director, WCCU, Mr. Muhammad Belayet Hossain, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Sundarbans East Division, Mr. Md Shahidul Islam Howlader, Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF), Chandpai range, Mr. Abdullah As Sadiq, Wildlife Inspector of WCCU, Md. Hafizur Rahman, Forester of WCCU and Mr. Md Saiful Islam, Field Facilitator, WildTeam were the trainers. Through theoretical and practical sessions, the trainees learned about various topics such as wildlife rescue, immobilization, management of the health of wild animals, different types of wildlife-borne diseases, wildlife act, the importance of the Sundarbans, and how to conserve this unique forest. Mr. Abdullah As Sadiq hopes through this training participants will come up with innovative ideas on how to protect wildlife.

The trainers, trainees, and staff met with Ms Habibun Nahar, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoFCC) on 13 July 2022. The Deputy Minister was very happy to know about this training programme and she encouraged the trainers, trainees, and staff to continue their great work for the protection of the Sundarbans.

WildTeam built WCBC under the Integrated Tiger Habitat and Conservation Project (ITHCP) funded by IUCN-KfW to engage the communities in tiger and Sundarbans conservation. It has training and accommodation facilities that can be used by organizations, researchers, students, and professionals. It acts as a participatory learning space where both communities and visitors learn from each other. WCBC has already made itself beneficial to the communities by providing them free drinking water which is a major issue for them due to high salinity levels. A total of 2000 liters of drinking water is distributed on a daily basis to the marginalized people of that area.

WCBC is also used as a safe abode by the communities during cyclones. On 9 November 2019, during Cyclone Bulbul, about 300 people, including an 8-day-old baby, took shelter at WCBC. WildTeam members, VTRTs, and BaghBandhus (Friends of Tigers) extended hospitality and provided food and drinking water to them. The people also took shelter here during Cyclone Amphan that hit the Sundarbans on 20 May 2020.

WCBC widens its door for the local community and nature lovers from home and abroad to learn more about the importance of the Sundarbans by establishing the Sundarbans Interpretation Centre (SIC) with the support of the German Cooperation-IUCN-KfW's ITHCP project (phase II). Through interactive storytelling and self-explanatory display materials, SIC aims to increase knowledge and pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors amongst local people and tourists.

The notable people visited WCBC so far are H.E. Mr. Alok Sharma, UK Cabinet Minister and President for COP26, H.E. Mr. Robert Chatterton Dickson, The British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, and H.E. Mr. Earl R. Miller, The U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh.

WildTeam has over 20 years of experience in wildlife conservation, focusing on Bengal tigers in the Bangladesh Sundarbans. It works with BFD and various local and international partners. It received Bangabandhu Award for Wildlife Conservation in 2011 for its outstanding contribution to tiger conservation in Bangladesh.

Md Sarowar Jahan, Assistant Coordinator, WildTeam

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