- There are around 100 community-based bird sanctuaries across Bangladesh, built through the initiative of local bird lovers, and backed by local authorities and NGOs.
- The Bangladesh Forest Department has so far demarcated 24 wildlife sanctuaries catering to different types of wildlife species, from mammals and reptiles, to amphibians and birds.
- Bangladesh is the home to 714 bird species, more than half of them native and the rest migratory.
- Native bird populations have declined significantly in the past 30 years, from an estimated 800,000 birds in 1994, to 233,000 in 2017, and 163,000 in 2018.
The village of Khariakandi in is a typical farming community. Is lush green environment also makes it an ideal habitat for different types of birds. As a result, like in other wildlife-rich areas, hunters have long been drawn here, leading to a drastic fall in the number of birds.
Some residents of Khariakandi, however, decided to protect the birds from the hunters and raise public awareness to discourage hunting. Today, the village, with a human population of just 800, is now also home to thousands of birds.
“With the abundance of bamboo, our village was always a popular place for different birds, as they can easily find a nest. But at some point, the number of birds fell due to hunting,” said Aynal Haque, a member of the village’s bird conservation committee. “Then, we started to send back the hunters from the village and created awareness among the villagers to stop their entry into the village.”
The initiative was formalized in 2017 through the influence of a local NGO, the Bangladesh Resources Council for Indigenous Knowledge (BARCIK). Later on, the local government authority declared the village a sanctuary for birds. Since then, Khariakandi has earned a new name: Pakhi Bari, or Birds’ Home.
“In addition to being the community representative, as a member of the village I am always for initiatives taken by the locals,” said Md Shahidul Islam, chair of the local government. “To make the issue formal, I made arrangements for declaring the village a birds’ home, as per the provision of the Bangladesh Wildlife Conservation and Security Act of 2012.”
Khariakandi is part of a network of some 100 community-based bird sanctuaries across Bangladesh, built through the initiative of local bird lovers, according to the Bangladesh Bird Club. A third of them are located in the western and northern districts of Rajshahi, Naogaon, Chapai Nawabganj, Dinajpur and Panchagarh, while the rest are scattered across wetlands throughout the country.
Bangladesh has witnessed an increasing rate of forest loss in recent decades, driven by demand for more land to grow food for an expanding population. That’s led to a reduction in wildlife habitat, especially for birds.
M. Monirul H. Khan, a zoology professor at Jahangirnagar University in Dhaka, said initiatives by villagers such as those in Khariakandi are a great step to reversing this trend. At the same time, it shows their empathy and understanding of the importance of protecting nature and biodiversity.
“Progress has been possible because of different community-based bird clubs formed by the youth and regular people across the country, through different initiatives of the government and nongovernmental organizations,” said Imran Ahmed, the forest conservator at the Bangladesh Forest Department.
The forest department has so far demarcated 24 wildlife sanctuaries catering to different types of wildlife species, from mammals to reptiles to amphibians and birds.
Diversity of birds in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is home to 714 known species of birds, according to the IUCN, the global authority on wildlife conservation. Of these, around 320 are migratory birds, arriving mostly from Mongolia, China, Tibet and Russia during the Northern Hemisphere winter. Each year Bangladesh hosts some 300,000 of these migratory birds, mostly waterfowl that arrive on six different flyways that cross the country, according to BirdLife International.
Though there’s no clear count of birds of different local species, the IUCN estimates there were around 800,000 birds in 1994, a population that decreased to 233,000 in 2017, and then again to 163,000 in 2018.
Banner image: A heron in a tree in Bangladesh. Image by Istiakh Ahmed Barson.