Tigers at a crossroads: Shedding light on the role of Bangladesh in the illegal trade of this iconic big cat


Countries receiving tiger products from/via Bangladesh from 2016 to 2021.

Countries receiving tiger products from/via Bangladesh from 2016 to 2021.

Unsustainable wildlife trade is a major threat to many species, but quantifying trade remains challenging, as seizure data provides an incomplete understanding. For this reason, integrating multiple types of information, including interviews with actors involved in trade, is crucial if we are to understand the problem better. Hence, in this study, we digitized Bangladesh Forest Department tiger seizure records to identify trade routes and interviewed 163 individuals involved in trafficking tigers through Bangladesh’s air, sea, and land ports, including poachers, smugglers, and traders. We identified six ports used to import tigers, 14 ports used for tiger export and three ports showing bi[1]directional trade. Elite Bangladeshis were the most important consumer group, and tigers were sourced from populations in NE India, Myanmar, and Bangladesh Sundarbans to supply domestic demand. Tiger products were exported to 14 countries, including seven G20 nations, with Bangladeshi expa[1]triates as the consumer group in three countries (United Kingdom, Germany, and Qatar). Rising economic development in Bangladesh over the last decade, combined with deep-rooted cultural ties to tiger consumption, has led to a rise in domestic demand. Additionally, rapid growth in international transport links has increased smuggling and connected local traders with global markets, increasing the complexity of global trade. These findings suggest Bangladesh is poised to play a pivotal role in tiger conservation over the next decade, requiring strong national strategies to reduce trade opportunities, disrupt networks and weaken demand.

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