Dhaka: The World Bank Sunday launched a wildlife conservation project here that will also cover three neighbouring countries, including India and Bhutan.
The "Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Wildlife Protection in Asia" project, which is to be implemented in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal, aims at helping the participating governments to enhance shared capacity, institutions and knowledge.
It also aims at addressing the cross-border poaching and other regional conservation threats to habitats in border areas, Xinhua reported.
With South Asia`s rich biodiversity, the region is a lucrative target of the illegal wildlife trade, said the Washington-based lender in a statement, adding illegal poaching of the iconic tiger and elephant, deer and reptiles, different species of birds and corals is the most severe threat against biodiversity conservation.
To address this, according to the statement, the World Bank recently approved a $36 million fund for wildlife conservation efforts in Bangladesh.
"The project will be an important milestone in regional cooperation for wildlife conservation in South Asia," said Hasan Mahmud, Bangladesh`s minister for environment and forests, at the project`s launching ceremony.
Participation by other tiger range countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia is envisaged in later phases, the statement added.
Bangladesh holds the largest remaining population of tigers in the Sundarbans. Habitats across Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal are home to over 65 percent of the 3,000 or so remaining wild tigers.
Bangladesh faces severe conservation challenges, said the statement, adding 4-5 percent of faunal species and about 10 percent of floral diversity have become extinct in the last century in the country.
No single country can manage or eliminate the threat of wildlife poaching on its own, said the statement, adding neither can a single country manage contiguous cross-border wildlife habitat effectively, since wild animals cannot be confined to national boundaries.
It said conservation of these habitats would also contribute to sustainable livelihoods for people dependent on forests. The project is expected to bring about regional collaboration in combating wildlife crime.