Bangladesh banned air rifles on Wednesday to stop poachers killing vulnerable wildlife, including flocks of migratory birds that fly all the way from Siberia seeking warmer winter climates.
Wildlife hunting was outlawed in Bangladesh more than three decades ago but the pneumatic weapons, which use compressed air to fire projectiles, are still commonly used in rural villages to shoot birds and other small animals.
Around a dozen wild avian species are close to extinction in the South Asian country but police crackdowns have failed to dent a vibrant poaching trade, with endangered birds sold openly on the streets of the capital Dhaka.
“We have declared war against wildlife and wild bird poachers,” forestry department chief Molla Rezaul Karim told AFP in response to the new order, which he said was a “milestone” in Bangladesh’s conservation efforts.
Karim said air rifles had been responsible for huge numbers of bird deaths in the country, including flocks migrating southwards each year from Russia.
Bangladesh is home to more than 700 species of wild birds but rampant hunting, climate change and dwindling forests are shrinking safe habitats.
“These airguns are the worst threats to our local birds,” said Sharif Khan, an author known as the country’s pre-eminent bird expert.
“If a village has one airgun, it is being used by hundreds of people. If (the law is) implemented we will be saving thousands of unfortunate birds,” he told AFP.