The government has taken up a project at an overall cost of Tk102 crore for the conservation and development of bovine gayal. The Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute will implement the project in five districts.
Similar to cows in terms of appearance, gayals belong to the species Bos frontalis. In Bangladesh, the animal is found mostly in hill forests in Chattogram's Pablakhali area, the Sajek valley, and along the border with Myanmar. In recent times, many people have been rearing gayals for commercial use.
However, the species is under threat of extinction as many people hunt them. In the Chattogram region, gayals are often slaughtered instead of cows and buffaloes in events like ursh and mezbani.
The gayal conservation project of the government aims to collect original breeds of the animal and then conserve and develop them in the hill tract regions and also in the plains. Artificial breeding of the animal will also be done at the community level.
Moreover, various technologies will be introduced under the project for providing healthy feed, nutrition, and a congenial habitat for gayals in commercial farms.
The project will be implemented in Dhaka's Savar area; Bandarban's Naikhongchhari, Ruma, Thanchi, Boangchari, and Alikadam areas; Cox's Bazar's Ramu area; Rangamati's Bilaichhari and Jurachhari areas; and Chattogram's Chandanaish and Satkania areas by 2024.
The project proposal says that digital apps will be developed to diagnose diseases of gayals in remote hilly areas. Gradually, two to three 'Breeding Cool Societies' will be set up at the community level in every upazila.
Dr Rezia Khatun, senior research officer at the Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute and also the project officer of the gayal conservation project, said, "Gayals are under threat of extinction. Because they live in forests, they suffer from mineral deficiency that reduces their fertility."
She also said the project will be launched with 60 gayals in the next couple of months.
Under this project, farmers in 11 upazilas under five districts will be trained on a number of subjects including the diseases, feedstuff, and reproduction of gayals.
Dr Farhad Hossain, deputy director at Chattogram divisional livestock office, said gayals, buffaloes and cows are almost the same, and the taste of their meat is also quite similar.
"But gayals usually have to run more because they live in the jungle, so their meat has less fat when compared to that of cows and buffaloes," he said.
He said, "We have no statistics on the exact number of gayals in Chattogram. However, about eight to ten farmers in the region are rearing these animals commercially."