Nine years back the journey of a dream started. WildTeam purchased a land in a village called Joymoni near the Sundarbans under Chandpai Union of Mongla Upazila, Bagerhat. Now the dream has become true. A training centre called WildTeam Conservation Biology Centre (WCBC) was built here under Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (ITHCP) funded by Kfw (German Development Bank) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This kind of training centre is a first in the eastern part of the Sundarbans. Therefore, it carries an enormous significance in building capacity of the local stakeholders, conservation professionals, researchers and students to contribute more in the conservation of nature and wildlife of Bangladesh. This fully furnished centre has a big training room with seating capacity of 120 persons, two guest rooms and an office room. Not only the national students but also the international students can reside here and carry out their research programmes. The Sundarbans is a cyclone prone area and quite often big cyclones hit the coastal belt of Bangladesh. Cyclone shelters and schools save millions of lives during the calamities. WCBC acts beyond its main mission and serves as a cyclone shelter in the emergency situations. It already proved its importance during Cyclone Bulbul which occurred on December 9, 2019. Around 250 people took shelter here for 2 days during that cyclone. In this way, WCBC is serving the community and being a part of them.

Though the formal launching of WCBC was held on December 18, 2019, it had started operating from September. Enam Ul Haque, Chairman, WildTeam and Founder, Bangladesh Bird Club inaugurated this centre along with WildTeam's CEO, Dr Md. Anwarul Islam; our friends from Kenya, Canada and UK; members of Village Tiger Response Team (VTRT); Bagh Bandhs (friends of tiger); TigerScouts and local communities.

So far, four training programmes were organised at this centre where 183 (including 6 females) participants from VTRT, BaghBandhu and forest resource collectors attended. The topics covered by those training programmes were VTRT capacity development, managing human-tiger conflicts, forest working safety issues, basic first aid, wildlife handling, rescue and rehabilitation. Apart from the training programmes VTRT meetings and BaghBandhu meetings are also held here.

This training centre is located in a strategic point of Joymoni village in between the Silo of Mongla Upazila and Chandpai Range Forest Office. This village is only an hour away from Mongla sea port and situated on the bank of Pashur River which serves as an international route for the cargo ships. Being away from the hectic city life and noise of the traffic this centre gives perfect atmosphere for the researchers and training participants to receive knowledge. WCBC already grabbed the attention of national and international communities and recently we had some friends from Kenya, Canada and UK visiting the Sundarbans and WCBC. It was their first visit to the Sundarbans and they enjoyed the beauty of the forest and became aware of the importance of this forest in maintaining ecological balance and protecting the lives of the local communities.

Though there was no luck for tigers but the visitors were amazed to see spotted deer, monitor lizard, monkeys, otter and different species of birds. The highlight from the last four months was the first ever visit of H.E. Kanbar Hossein Bor, the acting British High Commissioner, to the Sundarbans. He and his colleagues from British High Commission spent one night at WCBC and very much enjoyed their stay there. Bor met with VTRT, BaghBandhu, TigerScouts, Forest Department officials and the President of Chandpai Co-management Committee at WCBC and learned about their activities for the protection of tiger and the Sundarbans. He was impressed by the work of WildTeam and witnessed the impact of its work for tiger conservation. He also learned about the threats to the Sundarbans and tigers and how climate change is affecting this forest. He has been to the forest and was amazed by its beauty. Enam Ul Haque, Chairman, WildTeam and Founder, Bangladesh Bird Club and Dr Md. Anwarul Islam, CEO, WildTeam accompanied the guests on both trips.

This is not the end of journey for WCBC. It has a long way to go. It was built in line with WildTeam's mission to develop tools and platforms to build capacity of organisations and individuals. This training centre can also play a role as Sundarbans Interpretation Centre, research institution and knowledge hub for the local, national and international audiences. So, WCBC will thrive and continuously improve the facilities and expanding its scope to excel in wildlife conservation in Bangladesh.

Rezvin Akter is the conservation manager of WildTeam

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