Communicating Tiger Conservation in Bangladesh

30 November 2010 | News story

Iqbal Hussain, CEC member, shares the challenges of involving people in tiger conservation efforts in Bangladesh.

It is a big challenge to conserve tigers and the Sundarbans without involving people. But it is a bigger challenge to involve people in conservation. There were several efforts to motivate people to join conservation efforts and bring into action. How successful they were/are - that is the question. Looking at the socio-economic condition and other daily concerns, ‘conservation’ is a far away from their needs and priorities. If we look into people’s lives, who are living adjacent to the Sundarbans, unemployment is the burning issue there. Also the list will continue with population pressure, drinking water supply, road development, investment/finance, and alternative livelihood options. People act to their daily needs first. Then to the social basic needs. And, if they understand, we can expect them to act on environmental problems or conservation efforts. This is going to be the challenging job for us to bring these people into conservation efforts/action.

Communication can be the powerful solution here. We have to work at two different levels. First, we have to work on their needs and want to change behaviours. On the other hand, we have to work on raising the conservation value of tiger and the Sundarbans to the local people. Basically we have to brand the tiger and the Sundarbans such a way that conservation of these can go up a bit it in there priority list. Understanding the emotional and sociological response to conservation is the vital step to building a powerful brand.

2nd survey to build on Knowledge, Attitude and Practice survey

So the main question is - how can we do that? Sundarbans Tiger Project conducted a Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) survey on locally (the Sundarbans adjacent villages) and nationally. From the survey, we have identified some key behaviour need to change and target audiences. Now we are going to conduct another round of research to identify what our target audience generally wants or needs, a general understanding of what are the benefits and barriers of the current and desired behaviour – as these factors are fundamental to behaviour choice; also potential intervention ideas from the perspective of the target audience.

This information will guide the design of interventions for our behaviour change strategies, but we also need to know how to communicate effectively with our target audiences once we have developed the interventions. Therefore, we also will collect data on the communication channels used and trusted by our target audiences, and what language they themselves use. In addition, we will collect information on what existing marketing strategies are effective in reaching our target audiences and the factors that determine their success. The survey will be conducted in December 2010 in four pilot sites adjacent to the Sundarbans.

To save tigers and their habitat, we need to get inside people’s heads. See the world from their point of view. We need to find out what values they posses and how they perceive their relationship with the Sundarbans and tigers. We cannot just tell people what to do and what is best for them. Like Frits Hesselink, CEC Special Advisor, says, we should consider the people’s liberty principles like “I want to do my thing”, “I have a right to live and consume the way I prefer”, “I am free to choose what makes me happy”; “I do what is good for me”; “I follow my gut feelings and instincts”. So it is not going to be easy task to bring people into conservation without knowing their belief, desire and need.

We are using CEPA and social marketing approaches as a tool for getting ideas about people’s perspective and developing interventions that really meet their aspirations. We hope this strategy will help local people to understand and act on tiger conservation in Bangladesh,but it will take time. The bottom line is communication, communication and communication until you see any action. 

For more information, contact Iqbal Hussain, iqbal.hussain@wildlifetrust-bd.org