Dhaka, Nov 18 (UNI) The flora and fauna of the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest, became a major casualty of Thursday's devastating cyclone in Bangladesh.
Experts feared that much of nearly 40 species of mammals, some 400 species of birds and more than 200 species of fishes fell victim to the calamity, one of the worst in recent memory.
The Sundarbans is the home of the Royal Bengal Tiger, already an endangered animal, as well as of many other species like the Spotted Deer which are on the verge of extinction.
They said the Forest department is yet to make any assessment of the colossal losses of the wildlife in the Sundarbans, declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
Over a million people living in and around the Sundarbans depend on this forest for their livelihood. "But most importantly, the forest was an environmental shield for the people living in the country's southwestern region," said Prof Anwarul Islam of Zoology Department of Dhaka University.
Prof Islam, who is chief executive of Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh (WTB), stressed the need for assessing the loss caused to the Sundarbans and taking immediate measures to save the wildlife.
But this could prove to be a difficult task, he said, pointing out the lack of expertise, technical preparation and logistics.
"Where we can't save human lives, saving lives of the endangered species is a far cry. The forest department should take the lead in assessing casualty to wildlife in the Sundarbans and formulate a future plan to protect the forest," he said.
Sources in the Sundarbans areas said that a good number of bodies of Spotted Deer and monkeys were seen floating in the rivers and canals in the Sundarbans areas.
The rivers in the estuary of the Sundarbans hold more than 200 species of fishes including Hilsha, Fatty Catfish, Bass, White Grunt, Eel Tail Catfish, Indian Salmon, Crocker, Scats, Mullets, Ribbon Fish, Bombay Duck, Anchovys etc.
Besides, these rivers were the sanctuary of various types of shrimps like tiger shrimps, giant fresh water prawn, Indian white shrimp, green tiger shrimp, brown shrimp etc.