Poaching of the famed spotted deer has by now become a fixture violating the Sundarbans ecosystem, beyond the reach of state-led, often multilateral initiatives to clamp down on this transnational criminal enterprise.
Side-by-side with the economic fallout due to the Coronavirus, and taking advantage of it as well as other difficulties stemming from the pandemic, poaching of deer has been rife for most of 2020.
Sundarbans Forest Department seized 200 kg venison, held 40 poachers, and rescued 22 deer alive from different traps already this year. As with many types of crime, the real magnitude can only be estimated from the amount the authorities manage to catch, which is assumed to be a small percentage.
Sources said that only a tiny fraction of poachers are tracked down while the majority of them escape any obstruction successfully.
Taking the opportunity of relaxed security measures amid Coronavirus Pandemic, a vested quarter became more active in hunting deer from Sundarbans and selling the venison to make easy money.
Although currently all kinds of official entry permits in the largest mangrove forest are halted, poachers are taking different illegal ways to pursue their purpose. They are placing traps and poisoned mush to chase down the animals mainly deer due to its high price.
Villagers adjacent to Sundarbans said poachers hunt deer all around the year while law enforcers try to restrict it but in the past few months gangs of poachers became more active.
It is hard to predict as there is no specific statistic or survey done to measure the fall in the number of deer in the Sundarbans each year, they said.
Forest Department rescued 22 deer alive from the poachers from Tiarchar an area of East Sundarbans on May 4 and also rescued two more rare deer from Mathbaria in Pirojpur on April 23, April 24. The next month on May 28, another deer was rescued from a village in Sharankhola.
According to Sundarbans Forest Department, a total of 158 kg venison, three heads, and four rawhides of deer were seized from different areas during June of 2019 to July of 2020.
Besides, 28 boats, six trawlers, 10,000 feet of the haunting trap were seized and 40 poachers were arrested and 37 cases were filed during this time.
Forest Preserver of Khulna region Moinuddin Khan said some outsiders returned to their home near the Sundarbans area due to the Covid-19 situation, they are invading the forest as there is no job. They are taking different measures in this regard, he said.
Bashirul Al Mamun, Divisional Forest Officer of West Sundarbans said they have increased the smart patrol in the forest, and the forest department is alert and seriously working to prevent the poachers.
Divisional Forest Officer of East Sundarbans, Muhammad Belayet Hossain said the poachers who were arrested were residents of Rampal in Bagerhat, Sharankhola, Mongla, Morelganj, Dakop of Khulna and Mathbaria and Pathaghata of Pirojpur.
Meanwhile, despite preservation commitments and a total ban on all killing or capture of wildlife in the Sundarbans, there is a consistent pattern of depleted biodiversity or loss of species which is declining the ecological quality of the forest, according to experts.