Centre for Research and Information (CRI) and International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) of The United States Department of Justice, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) arranged a ‘Policy Cafe’ titled “Spotlight on Wildlife Exploitation” on 28 October 2023. The Policy Café brought together policymakers, researchers, conservationists and youth activists to exchange views on wildlife trafficking in Bangladesh.
The panel of discussants included Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP, Bangladesh Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Climate Change; Fahim Zaman, Head of Operations at Creative Conservation Alliance; Craig Fullstone, Chief of Party at ICITAP; Samia Saif, Program Coordinator, Wildlife Protection Activity (WPA), ICITAP and Radwan Mujib Siddiq CRI Trustee and editor of WhiteBoard policy magazine.
This Policy Café aimed to raise awareness about wildlife trafficking and seek strategies for strengthening wildlife protection policies of the Government of Bangladesh.
“Wildlife trade is the world’s fourth largest illicit trade, it is directly linked to arms, drug and human trafficking. Unfortunately, Bangladesh is a source and transit for the illegal wildlife trade. And that is why it is important to deal with this problem,” said Craig Fullstone, Chief of Party at ICITAP.
“Punishment for wildlife trafficking in Bangladesh is much less than other crimes, so people are drawn to wildlife crime because the rewards outweigh the risks,” he added.
“Bangladesh is a rich country in terms of biodiversity due to its geographical location. If we do not stop this illegal trade, these natural resources will one day be exhausted,” WPA Program Coordinator Samia Saif reflected.
“The first step for young people to join wildlife protection initiatives can be to get involved in wildlife rescue activities. They can contribute to combating wildlife crime by working with the forest department,” said Fahim Zaman from Creative Conservation Alliance.
Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, Saber Hossain Chowdhury said, “it is our duty to protect wildlife, biodiversity and environment for our own sake. We need to update our laws further. Only then can we give the issue the attention it needs.”
“Under the current law, only killing a tiger or an elephant is a non-bailable and cognizable offence. We’re trying to add more species there like pangolins, hornbills and rays,” he added.
Tuning in through video conference, CRI trustee Radwan Mujib Siddiq said, “To move forward in the next 50 years, we need to give equal importance to all areas of the country at the same time. Wildlife trafficking is an issue that is not often discussed. The young generation of the country needs to come forward in this regard.
All participants and panelists urged that there should be a greater focus on wildlife trafficking initiatives moving forward in Bangladesh.