Three types of elephants are found in Bangladesh, i.e. resident, migratory and captive. The resident wild elephants are found in the hilly and non-hilly evergreen forests of Chittagong, Chittagong Hill Tracts (Bandarban, Khagrachari and Rangamati), Cox’s Bazar regions. Non-resident or migratory elephants are found in Mymensingh, Sherpur, Jamalpur, Netrokona, Kurigram, Sylhet, Moulvibazar, Bandarban and Cox’s Bazar regions. In addition, elephants are also found in captivity in Bangladesh and used in log transportation, or found in zoos, safari parks, circus, etc. The total elephant population of Bangladesh varies from time to time. Different researchers have got different numbers during their investigations (Table 1) and the first estimate was revealed in 1978.
Table 1: Records of Asian elephant population estimation since 1978
|Asian elephant population||Reference|
|–||–||–||348||Gittins & Akanda (1982)|
|195-239||–||–||–||Kempf & Santiapillai (2000)|
|151-344||–||–||–||Feeroz et al. (2004)|
|196-227||83-100||94||–||IUCN Bangladesh (2004)|
|–||IUCN Bangladesh (2016) (in press)|
About 100 years ago, elephants were apparently present in most of the forests of Bangladesh (Alam, 2008). Chowdhury (2007) mentioned that there were more than 500 elephants present in their natural habitats throughout Bangladesh that are reducing at an alarming rate everyday. From field observations it was found that food shortages, habitat loss and fragmentation, and direct killing of elephants are the main threats for elephants in Bangladesh.
Lack of available food in the forests has led the elephants to enter into the crop fields and people’s households. On one hand, people’s livelihoods are dependent on crops and they always try to protect it. On the other hand, elephants need food and this conflicting interest creates severe human-elephant conflict. Moreover, present investigation shows that human settlements, agricultural lands, roads and highways, brick fields, army cantonments, village markets etc. were constructed within or near the elephant movement routes and corridors. This further created human-elephant conflicts and resulted in human casualties, elephant deaths, human injuries, damages to crops and so on. As elephants always follow their fixed routes and corridors during movement, construction of infrastructures have largely affected their mobility.
The Government of Bangladesh has developed a number of policies, regulations and legislations to protect the elephants of Bangladesh. Together with relevant acts and legislations, importance has been given to the conservation of biodiversity and natural resources in several national strategies. In late 2015, Bangladesh Forest Department and IUCN Bangladesh Country Office has taken an initiative to sign a protocol between Bangladesh and India to ensure safe and free movement of transboundary wild elephants across the international borders between these two countries. Conservation of wildlife, biodiversity and natural resources of Bangladesh has been prioritized in 2012 by the 15th Amendment of the Constitution of Bangladesh under the heading “Protection and improvement of the environment and biodiversity”. Currently, the elephant is legally protected by the Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act, 2012.