It is done so secretly that the actual numbers poached are several times higher than official statistics
- Wealthy and influential people are the main consumers of venison, which sells for Tk1,000 to Tk2,000 per kg.
- A group of 10-12 poachers, led by three employees of Phulbari tea garden, go hunting in the forest once or twice a week.
- There is no census data on the current population of deer.
The poaching of deer in Lauachhara National Park, located in Kamalganj upazila of Moulvibazar, has not abated.
It is done so secretly that the actual numbers poached are several times higher than official statistics, according to locals.
They said one kilogramme of venison sells for Tk1,000 to Tk2,000.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, wealthy and influential people were the main consumers, some even occasionally gifting their relatives with venison, they added.
According to wildlife researcher Sabit Hasan, wildlife hunting was surreptitiously continuing in the forest. Four months ago, he went to the forest for research work, accompanied by his colleague Tania Islam. With the help of Ms Islam and their guide, Sabit recovered 23 traps of different sizes in two phases, from deep into the forest. He also came across a wounded deer with injury marks, as it had somehow escaped from the hands of the hunters. He later informed the forest ranger about the incident.
The ranger informed Sabit that the forest authorities had also recovered some traps in the last few days.
Traps are usually set near springs in the forest so that animals fall in the traps when they come to drink water.
Sabit said they had also recovered several sacks from holes near the traps. These sacks were used to carry the hunted animals, he added.
A youth from a village adjacent to Lauachhara, speaking a few days ago on condition of anonymity, said that he had recovered some traps from the Lauachhara forest area near Tripura Para and had informed the beat officer accordingly.
A worker of Phulbari tea garden, also seeking anonymity, said, "A group of 10-12 poachers, led by three employees of Phulbari tea garden, go hunting in the forest once or twice a week, looking for deer and pigs. They hunt and hang the animals from trees during the day. In the evening, they reenter the forest and chop their prey into pieces. Then they distribute the meat amongst members of their group and take it away."
According to the Forest Department of Moulvibazar, deerskin and slaughtered deer are occasionally rescued. A slaughtered deer was recovered a few days ago.
Shamsul Haque, joint convener of the Lauachhara Biodiversity Protection Movement, said he was on his way back from the Phulbari Tea Garden (adjacent to Lauachhara National Park) on 27 December 2020, when he heard an animal whining in the forest.
But since it was late and he was unsure about the incident, he left quickly. The next morning, he returned to the same spot and saw the footprints of a deer, and also found hunting implements and human footprints.
About six months ago, Sajal Dev, director of Bonyo Prani Seba Foundation, a Sreemangal-based wildlife protection organisation, had discovered that three Jagchhara tea garden employees (adjacent to the Lauachhara forest) had hunted a deer, tied it upside down and carried it home.
However, Motaleb Hossain, forest officer of Sreemangal Range, said, "Occasionally, we rescue deer when they are caught by people. Though we sometimes hear about allegations of deer poaching, poaching numbers are insignificant. We do not work on our own - people support us. There was a time when they were proud of their hunting activities, but the mindset has now changed."
However, due to the lack of census data, he was unable to pinpoint the current population of deer, compared to previous numbers.