Deer of the Dhal Char and Crossdam forests are the worst victims of poachers, who are hunting them even amid the ongoing pandemic
For a long time now, thousands of spotted deer in different chars of Bhola have been fighting for survival by dodging poachers and struggling with adverse natural conditions.
The spotted deer's habitat is shrinking due to regular felling of trees and natural disasters, said locals.
Increased salinity of water in the forest often forces these thirsty deer to enter nearby localities in search of drinking water, but there they get caught by local youths.
"I have released at least four deer after they were caught by people when they entered the locality to drink water," said Monpura Forest Ranger Sumon Das.
Deer are mainly found in Char Kukri-Mukri and Dhal Char areas in Char Fasson upazila and Dhal Char and Crossdam forests of Hajir Hat area in Monpura upazila of Bhola.
Deer were first released in the reserved forests of Bhola during the early '80s. Now, around 10,000 deer are living in 7,421 acres of reserved forest there, according to the Forest Department Office of the district.
Deer of Dhal Char and Crossdam forests are the worst victims of poachers, who are hunting them even amid the ongoing pandemic, said Shipu Farajee, a local journalist who has been working on forest-related issues for a long time.
"The whole area would have been flooded with herds of deer if they were not killed by the poachers. Visitors could enjoy the beauty of the wild animals up-close," said Shipu.
Some of the islands where deer live are situated in different points where the Meghna River meets the sea; some are in the Bay of Bengal. All the islands are surrounded by the Meghna River or the sea, which makes them very difficult to reach. So, the poachers run their illegal activities fearlessly.
Seeking anonymity, a reporter said, "Poachers kill deer every day in different areas of forests in Monpura and sell their meat secretly in the name of beef."
Requesting anonymity, a poacher said they earn around Tk20,000-25,000 by selling a deer's meat alone and they get a handsome price for its hide.
"Poachers use two methods to hunt deer – one is setting up rope traps in the forest and another is hanging nets from the trees on the path used by deer. Deer usually walk through the forest after the evening and fall into these traps," he said.
Hunting of deer has increased due to Covid-19 as police and forest department officials are busy dealing with the pandemic, he added.
However, Divisional Forest Officer of Bhola Toufiqul Islam said, "Our surveillance is continuing in the forests. My officers are actively working to stop poaching and tree-felling, ignoring the risks of coronavirus.
"Some forests are situated in areas so remote, that our team cannot reach those places instantly. But if we are informed about any criminal activities in the forest, we respond immediately," he added.
However, the surveillance team cannot move in rough weather and through high waves in river or sea, he added.
During every natural disaster like cyclone or tidal waves, some deer die or get washed away, because they cannot find any unsubmerged land in the forest to take shelter when the water level rises.
Although the Forest Department has built some killa (elevated patches of lands) in some forests for the animals, buffalos take shelter there when the water level rises.
Hundreds of buffalos left by their owners graze in the forests, so deer find little room there.
"I have been urging the higher authorities to build a killa at Dhal Char forest for a long time, but received no reply," said Abdus Salam, chairman of Dhal Char union parishad.