The honourable U.S. Ambassador H.E. Mr Earl R. Miller visited WildTeam Conservation Biology Centre (WCBC) on January 28, 2020 in Chandpai, Mongla, and learned about tiger conservation activities implemented by WildTeam. During this trip Ambassador Miller met several community-based volunteer groups including Village Tiger Response Teams (VTRTs), BaghBandhus (Tiger Ambassadors), and TigerScouts. He joined the activities of these groups, talked to them about their roles in conserving tigers and the Sundarbans. He was amazed to see their motivation for voluntary jobs and how they are working tirelessly for years to motivate people for this noble cause. He also visited Sundarbans Education Centre (SEC) at Joymoni High School at Chandpai and met TigerScouts and the SEC Management Committee there and got to know about their activities to educate students with the knowledge of the Sundarbans and tiger. Earlier Ambassador Miller had a meeting with WildTeam officials where he learned about USAID's Bagh Activity project activities and how these activities are being carried out beyond Bagh project by WildTeam. During this trip he also met Forest Tiger Response Team (FTRT), a boat based 3-member team whose primary job is to manage human tiger conflicts inside the forest in collaboration with Bangladesh Forest Department (BFD) and local people. The USAID team also had meetings with Chandpai Range Forest Department officials, Co-management Committee (CMC) and Community Patrol Group (CPG) members.

Meeting with BaghBandhus (Tiger Ambassadors) in a village forum

Ambassador Miller with a VTRT member

Ambassador Miller was accompanied by Ms Michelle Renee Adelman, Mr Derrick S. Brown, USAID/Bangladesh Mission Director; Ms Sumaiya Firoze, Natural Resources Management Specialist, USAID Bangladesh; and other USAID officials. Dr Md. Anwarul Islam, Chief Executive, WildTeam and Mr Md. Belayet Hossen, Divisional Forest Officer, Sundarbans East Division, were also present at the meetings. These meetings were part of USAID's 3-day long visit in the Sundarbans. Ambassador Miller stated that a healthy ecosystem is vital for economic and social development of this region and he emphasized the continued commitment of US government for the protection of biodiversity of Bangladesh.

VTRT demonstrates how to send a stray tiger back to the forest

Under the leadership of Bangladesh Forest Department and in collaboration with Smithsonian Institution and Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, WildTeam implemented a USAID funded project titled "USAID's Bagh Activity' from 2014 to 2018. Under this project WildTeam worked in five different areas for the protection of tiger. These are expanded knowledge base; reduced illegal wildlife trafficking; minimized human-wildlife conflict; enhanced communications, outreach and gender engagement; and improved livelihoods for conservation. Bagh project supported to strengthen the capacity of VTRTs in managing human-wildlife conflict (HWC) in village areas who were formed in 2007 by WildTeam. Currently there are 49 teams comprising of 340 members including 20 women across the periphery areas of the Sundarbans. Bagh project also supported to improve the platforms for community engagement to create awareness within the community people and educating school children to build an environment friendly future generation. To do that BaghBandhus were formed comprising of local influencers and TigerScouts from secondary school students. Currently there are 55 BaghBandhus and 40 TigerScouts working in the entire belt of the Sundarbans.

Ambassador Miller handed over a USAID memento to WildTeam CEO,Professor Md. Anwarul Islam, at WCBC premises

After the Bagh project has ended WildTeam is continuing the tiger conservation activities engaging community people with the support from IUCN-KfW under a project called "Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme" (ITHCP) since mid 2018. With a vision to increase the capacity of the organisations and individuals, and to make a hub for the wildlife researchers ITHCP project built WCBC in Joymoni village under Mongla upazila, Bagerhat. It has facilities for trainings, meetings and accommodating guests. WCBC acted as a cyclone shelter during Cyclone Bulbul in early November, 2019, and around 250 people took shelter there.

Ambassador Miller, USAID Mission Director, Mr Brown, and USAID team on FTRT boat with FTRT members

TigerScouts with Ms Michelle Renee Adelman - a happy moment

Ambassador Miller, Ms Michelle Renee Adelman and USAID Mission Director, Mr Brown, in a meeting with TigerScouts and SEC Management Committee

Ambassador Miller, Ms Michelle Renee Adelman and USAID Mission Director, Mr Brown, in a cheerful moment with TigerScouts

WildTeam dreams of a healthy Sundarbans with full of biodiversity including the Bengal Tiger, the flagship species and the national animal of Bangladesh, where people will live happily and it is only possible when the local communities and stakeholders work hand in hand and WildTeam accomplishes this goal.

Ambassador Miller and WildTeam CEO, Professor Md. Anwarul Islam, in front of a billboard, which showcases the commitment of local communities towards tiger conservation

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