Comitted to PEOPLE'S RIGHT TO KNOW
Vol. 4 Num 34 Mon. June 30, 2003  
   
Letters to Editor


"Zoo tiger in the wild!"


The controversial statement by Mr. Mofizur Rahman, Curator, Dhaka Zoo to release surplus captive-bred zoo tigers and lions (DS, 28 May) in the Sunderbans for reasons that the Dhaka Zoo is not able to maintain these excess animals has opened up a debate. This is in response to the 'Opinion' by Dr. Reza Khan (DS, 11 June), my letter (DS, 13 June) and 'Opinion' by the Curator, Dhaka Zoo (DS, 18 June). The national daily in Bangla "Prothom Alo" (19 June) provided some clarification referring to that statement. The debate is very logical since it involves several issues:

(i) Primarily the release of captive bred tigers and lions in the wild,

(ii) Releasing animals whose origins are not precisely known,

(iii) Allegation by the Curator that the news published did not reflect the actual views of what he said, and

I agree with the Curator that captive breeding programs involving some rare and endangered species in several countries were a success and later those animals were reintroduced in the wild. That is where the role of the zoos all over the world was appreciated in the field of conservation. These were instances that took place a couple of decades ago and at that time scientific information on the implications of reintroducing captive-bred animals was still in infancy. However in those cases, either the origins of the animals were precisely known, or the released animals belonged to the same bloodline of the resident population, or the F1 generation animals were released or the habitat where the animals were released once supported them. These captive breeding and re-introduction programs were carried out under rigorous scrutiny and monitoring, which we do not have in the Dhaka Zoo. Moreover, the breeding and re-introduction programs were part of a management plan and as Dr. Khan rightly pointed out the Dhaka Zoo lacks it.

Historically, the lions never inhabited any part of Bangladesh, let alone the Sunderbans. So how can the Curator, holding a responsible position make such a statement? Moreover, the lions at the Dhaka Zoo are the African lions. So where did he find a similarity between the African savannah and the Sunderban mangroves!!

Let us for the sake of argument take that the press did not publish the news correctly. What has the Curator to say about the interview with the BBC? Hundreds of Bangla-speaking people probably heard it, if not thousands. The interview is on tape and can be procured from the BBC for verification.

Wildlife management is a science based on sound, logical theories and applied science, and is not easy as some people may think. Its implications carry far beyond, which the people without proper education and training in wildlife management science will not understand. It is disastrous when some whimsical decision is taken or an irresponsible statement is made. I do not think that our Ministry of Environment & Forest, which is responsible for wildlife, is ignorant of the facts on how to deal with the captive-bred animals. The statements made by Dr. Reza Khan, which the Curator referred to, as 'a utopian story' is grossly, a misstatement on the part of the Curator.