Elephants in Bangladesh
Approximately 200 years ago, elephants were abundant throughout the area of modern Bangladesh. Today however they are listed as critically endangered and are one of the most threatened elephant populations in the range states. Up to 30% of Bangladesh’s elephant population is transient, migrating over the borders into neighboring India or Burma.
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Bangladesh Elephant Population Figures
|Elephant Range:||1,800 km² approx|
|Country Ranking:||12th of 13|
|Total Wild Elephants:||196 – 227|
|Country Ranking:||11th of 13|
|Total Captive Population:||100|
|Country Ranking:||10th – 13th|
Source: R Sukumar – A Brief Review of the Status, Distribution and Biology of Wild Asian Elephants Elephas maximus- International Zoo Yearbook 2006
While this information source is considered the very best available, accurate data on wild elephant populations is difficult to obtain and scientifically verify.
Wild Elephants in Bangladesh
Wild elephants in Bangladesh are limited to areas generally inaccessible to humans such as the isolated Chittagong Hill tracts or national parks, of which Himchari National Park and the Mainimukh and Pablakhali Wildlife Sanctuaries are protected areas.
The biggest threats to the wild elephants are
- Habitat loss and fragmentation – Bangladesh’s human population has exploded over the past 30 years and the competition for land is intense – even more so since approximately 30% of the country floods during monsoon season.
- Scarcity of fodder – related to the above point, but also an indication of problems that arise during the dry season when natural food sources become more difficult to find. Elephant fodder represents only 14% of the total local plant species.
- Disturbed Corridors – A 2001-2003 IUCN study found that there were 15 important elephant corridors in Bangladesh involving the native elephants and migratory populations from India and Myanmar.
The above factors have had a serious effect on human elephant relations. Bangladesh is an exceptionally poor country and the government does not have the resources to effectively manage the conservation of wildlife. There are virtually no active conservation projects in Bangladesh.
Domesticated Elephants in Bangladesh
There are around 100 captive elephants in Bangladesh. Of these, about 75% are employed in the logging industry hauling timber while the remaining 25% work in the circus. Conditions are likely to be very difficult for both groups.
The lack of financial resources and a dedicated government department as well as the almost total absence of any conservation work means the elephants of Bangladesh are reliant on their survival by living in areas isolated from human beings.
Bangladesh’s elephant population is possibly the most threatened in Asia. A major commitment to securing the existing corridors seems to be the elephants’ only chance of sustainable survival. Given the lack of resources available within the country, it requires a major commitment by the international community.
Bangladesh’s elephants may be the most threatened in Asia