A carnivore conservation initiative in north-eastern forest reserves of Bangladesh

Muntasir Akash

The mixed evergreen forest reserves of north-eastern Bangladesh are known for a rich mammal assemblage. The reserves, the northern fringes of the Baramura-Atharamura-Longtharai Hills, are under formal protections encompassing two national parks, one wildlife sanctuary and two Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) to support many globally threatened carnivores such as Cuon alpinus, Neofelis nebulosa, Pardofelis marmorata, Prionailurus viverrinus, Helarctos malayanus, Ursus thibetanus, Arctictis binturong. However, the reserves are perishing fast; encroachment, altercation, retaliatory killing and prey poaching are severe. Owing to research bias, systematic studies on north-eastern carnivores are nearly non-existent.

This project envisages a better understanding of the least-studied carnivores through the use of adept methodologies. We will establish a structured camera-trap survey database in three reserves, perform activity pattern analysis, pair-wise co-occurrence and distribution modelling, and compare efficacy between results of different study techniques. Our capacity build-up and awareness schemes are aimed at the Bangladesh Forest Department, indigenous guides, early-career conservationists, and citizen scientists. With a view to creating a science-backed voice for north-eastern carnivores and rallying a community that is skilled in and passionate about carnivore studies, the project–a first in the region–stands as a stepping stone for carnivore conservation in Bangladesh.