Vol. 5 Num 572 Wed. January 04, 2006  
Star Chittagong

Steps to conserve Chunati Wildlife Sanctuary

Department of Forest has taken initiatives to conserve the Chunati Wildlife Sanctuary, a reserved forest that is disappearing at an alarming rate.

The department launched a project titled 'Nishorgo Support Project' funded by USAID on December 20 at Chunati Wildlife Sanctuary with a three-day hiking of scouts to that end.

Enriched with a wide variety of different species of plants and animals, the Chunati Wildlife Sanctuary is on 7,800 hectares of land at Banskhali and Lohagara upazilas in Chittagong and Chakaria upazila in Cox's Bazar.

The forest was declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1986 to conserve the vast stock of plants and endangered animals.

The project aims at improving the management of the country's protected areas through building up partnerships with the key local and national stakeholders that can assist in the efforts.

It was launched at Bhawal National Park on February 24 in 2004 with the slogan "Let us save nature for our future generation".

Nishorgo Support Project and Bangladesh Scouts jointly organised the hiking that started from Chunati Wildlife Sanctuary ended at Teknaf Game Reserve Forest with a view to creating awareness among the local people about conservation of the reserved forests.

Around 1200 species of plants, including 45 species of tall tree like Garjan (Dipterocarpus spp.), Raktan ( Lophopetum spp.), Jam (Syzium), Urium (Mangiferra spp.) Chapalish (Artocarpus spp.), Simul ( Salmalia spp.) Koroi (Albizzia) and wide variety of herbs and shrubs enriched the forest.

There were 178 wildlife species, including six of amphibians, eight of reptiles, 137 of birds and 27 of mammals, in the forest.

But, a recent survey showed some species of bamboos, grasses and trees like Goda, Ban-Chalta, Chapalish, Bahera, Menda, Amlaki, Dumur, Gotgotta and Bajna as dominant in the forest while many of the species are already extinct or on the verge of extinction, sources said.

Of the animals, two species of amphibians, two of reptiles, two of mammals and some eleven species of birds are mostly found in the forest now, they said.

Illegal felling of trees posed a serious threat to the forest, once natural habitats of the wildlife, while poaching endangered the wild animals, including elephants and birds there.

The forest has been degraded so much that the natural habitat in the sanctuary now has become very poor in quality for wildlife, said the sources.

Various species of trees, bamboos and grasses and wildlife, however, are still profuse in the protected area calling for a comprehensive move for conservation.

Elephants use the forest as their route for movement while different species of Cat, Buno-Shukar, Hanuman, Kant tukra, Choto Basanta Bowry, Banaspati, Kanakua, Ababil, Tila Ghugu, Finge, Buna Moyna, Bhat Shalik, Gu Shalik and some aquatic animals are available at Chunati Sanctuary.

While visiting the sanctuary this correspondent found local people cleared off the forest to erect huts or to do cultivation.

The Nishorgo project will be implemented through community participation involving these people as local stakeholders, said Mehrin A Mahbub, Nishorgo Communication specialist.

" Besides, private business community, local and international nature conservation institutes such as International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Bangladesh Wild Life Trust and the nature fan individuals are also working as the partners of this project," Abdul Mutaleb, conservator of forest, Chittagong circle, told The Daily Star.

The project will offer alternative income generating opportunities for those live on forest resources and promote the resources and beauty of the natural forest through artificial regeneration of valuable species of both plants and animals, sources said.

Chunati Wildlife Sanctuary. PHOTO: Zobaer Hossain Sikder