DHAKA: Bangladesh has banned air rifles to protect hundreds of vulnerable bird species, a top environmental official said on Thursday, as flocks of migratory birds arrive in the country to survive the winter months in a warmer climate.
Bangladesh has more than 700 bird species, 388 of them migratory birds coming from China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Uzbekistan, according to Bangladesh Bird Club data.
The number of migratory birds, which spend on average seven months in the country, has been declining due to climate change and illegal hunting. Authorities estimate that 125,000 migratory birds flew to Bangladesh this year, 20,000 less than during the previous winter. While wildlife hunting was outlawed in Bangladesh more than three decades ago, air guns remained legal as they did not fall under the “lethal weapon” category. The government ban on carrying and using air rifles came into effect on Wednesday.
“This is a part of our continuing efforts to preserve wildlife. The decision to ban air guns will help in protecting both migratory and homegrown birds,” Deputy Chief Conservator of Forests Mohammad Jahidul Kabir told Arab News.
“There are some migratory birds that are considered critically endangered throughout the world and it’s our duty to protect these birds.”
The move was welcomed by environmentalists, who are urging the government to increase fines and jail terms for poachers.
“We have been asking for air guns to be banned for around a decade. It’s good news that the government has finally taken the decision,” Abdul Karim, a central committee member of the Bangladesh Environmental Movement, told Arab News.
“The authorities should consider tougher punishments,” he said. “Poachers are still capturing the birds in different ways. Sometimes they use net traps to catch the birds alive and sell them.”
Under the country’s wildlife protection laws, the maximum punishment is a year’s imprisonment and a fine of $1,200.
The former country director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Prof. Niaz Ahmed Khan, said it was the first time the Bangladeshi government had banned the use of pneumatic weapons.
“The decision is very much logical,” he said, but bans alone are not enough.
“Government has created many sanctuaries for the wildlife and birds. But law and government initiatives alone are not enough in this regard,” Khan told Arab News.
“The government should include the message about the importance of protecting nature in school textbooks,” he said.
“We need to have more people’s engagement and the younger generation should be involved in this process.”