US envoy visits Sundarbans to promote wildlife, conservation

US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl Miller, accompanied by USAID Mission Director Derrick Brown, has visited the Sundarbans to support the growing partnership between the United States and Bangladesh.

Ahead of World Wetlands Day that falls on February 2, his visit to the world’s largest mangrove forest from January 26-28 highlighted the importance of conserving the Sundarbans and its wildlife.

Healthy ecosystems and protection from natural disasters are critical to developing a resilient Bangladesh, said the US Embassy in Dhaka on Tuesday.

During the trip, Ambassador Miller met Bangladesh Forest Department representatives at Harbaria and visited US government-supported conservation activities that contribute to the protection of the Sundarbans and its biodiversity.

Miller also met students from Daffodil University and representatives from the Bangladesh Forest Department to learn about their partnership and research in the Sundarbans.

He visited Kotka with a doctoral student from the University of Delaware whose tiger conservation research is funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

They also hiked part of the popular Kotka trail and learned about the role and impact of tourism in the Sundarbans.

On the final day of the visit, Miller met representatives of local civil society organisation, WildTeam Limited, to learn how conservation activities have continued beyond USAID’s $10.5 million Bengal Tiger Conservation Activity (Bagh), completed in 2018.

On May 22, 2019, as result of USAID’s Bagh activity and its coordinated efforts to conserve the Sundarbans, the Bangladesh Forest Department and USAID announced that the Bengal tiger population had stabilised and marginally increased, from an estimated 106 tigers in 2015 to an estimated 114 tigers in 2018, said the US Embassy.

Ambassador Miller also met community volunteers, including those with the village tiger response team, local tiger ambassadors, tiger scouts, co-management organisations, and community patrol group members.

Through USAID’s Bagh and Climate Resilient Ecosystems and Livelihoods (CREL) activities, in partnership with the government of Bangladesh, USAID helped train these community groups to conserve the Sundarbans and its diverse biodiversity, according to the US Embassy.

CREL activities, included supporting the planting of 565,000 mangrove seedlings on 512 hectares.  Species planted included  Kakra (Bruguiera gymnorrhiza), Bine (Avicenia officinalis), Sundori (Heritiera fomes), Keora (Sonneratia apetala), and Golpata (Nipa fruticans).

Support for conservation initiatives has played a fundamental role in preserving green space and the valuable ecosystems and biodiversity in the United States important to increasing US resilience, said the US Embassy.

It said such efforts provide similar benefits to Bangladesh, strengthening its capacity to respond to natural disasters and protect ecosystems critical not only to Bangladesh but also the health of the planet.

The US government is committed to continuing to support Bangladesh’s resilience to natural hazards and advancing US-Bangladesh priorities, said the Embassy.

World Wetlands Day

World Wetlands Day highlights the important environmental protection role wetlands play throughout the world and emphasises why wetlands are vital to promote conservation of these important ecosystems, according to the US Embassy.

The Sundarbans is the world’s largest mangrove forest and an appropriate venue to showcase the importance of wetlands.

This important region provides a natural barrier to hazards such as storms and cyclones and is home to the Bengal tiger, masked finfoot, irrawaddy dolphin, saltwater crocodile, and many other endangered or vulnerable species, said the Embassy.