Wildlife Conservation Society Bangladesh Mangrove Initiatives

The Sundarbans are the world’s largest mangrove forest covering about 10,000 square kilometers, of which roughly two-thirds lie within Bangladesh.

This mangrove ecosystem, including an extensive network of tidal waterways, supports astonishing biodiversity such as vital populations of Asia’s last two remaining freshwater dolphin species, both of which are considered endangered, and the only population of tigers living completely in mangroves.


In addition to supporting a rich assemblage of globally threatened wildlife, the Sundarbans provides essential natural resources, including fish, crustaceans, firewood, nipa palm and honey, for a large and growing human population living along the fringes of the mangrove forest. The forest also provides essential ecosystem services including protection against natural disasters and rising sea levels. It also filters and assimilates pollutants from upstream run-off.

Impact and Achievements

WCS-Bangladesh has made tremendous progress in protecting the world’s largest mangrove forest as well as globally significant wildlife and the ecosystem services it maintains through supporting the Government of Bangladesh and local communities bordering the Sundarbans. Key achievements include establishing protected areas in priority habitat for threatened species and implementing management solutions that balance biodiversity conservation with the needs of local communities. These accomplishments have been possible through our long-term commitment to establishing partnerships and building trust among local communities, government agencies and partner NGOs.


WCS Initiatives

To support mangrove conservation in the Bangladesh Sundarbans, as well as protect iconic wildlife and essential ecosystem services, WCS has:



  • Worked with local communities, nature tourism operators and the Bangladesh Forest Department to develop the Integrated Management Plan for Three Wildlife Sanctuaries for Freshwater Dolphins which has been adopted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.


  • Built strong local support among more than 54,000 villagers living in communities bordering the Sundarbans through an interactive, boat-based exhibition that shared information and provided a platform for conducting consultations on freshwater dolphins, sustainable fisheries, and climate change adaptation with measurable positive impacts documented in local communities (Mansur et al. 2014).


  • Developed a permanent exhibit at the Karamjal Visitors Centre that has raised awareness among the tens of thousands of Bangladeshi tourists visiting the Sundarbans each year about the importance of the mangrove forest for freshwater dolphins and sustainable fisheries.


  • Produced an impressive collection of media materials, including a documentary film on threatened freshwater dolphins and a variety of educational outreach publications targeting fisherfolk with generally low literacy levels.


  • Supported the Bangladesh Forest Department with implementing SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) for evaluating and improving the effectiveness of wildlife law enforcement monitoring patrols across the Sundarbans through training and mentoring more than 150 officials and frontline staff from the Forest Department. WCS also developed SMART Operating Procedures for Law Enforcement and Wildlife Monitoring Patrols and a comprehensive Handbook for SMART Patrolling in the Sundarbans Mangrove Forest in collaboration with the Bangladesh Forest Department.


  • Developed and implemented a Fish for Future – Playing by the Rules initiative that includes a travelling interactive exhibition using games to engage fishing communities in raising awareness on sustainable fisheries, aquatic wildlife conservation and laws and rules for fishing in the mangrove forest, and production of an short animated film and convening Training-of-Trainers workshops for frontline Forest Department staff to communicate these same messages to fisherfolk when they pick up their permits at Forest Department stations and posts.

With additional funding, WCS will be able to:


  • Strengthen efforts to protect terrestrial and aquatic species in the mangrove forest based on the successful model employed in the three Wildlife Sanctuaries for Freshwater Dolphins;


  • Identify additional priority sites for protecting globally threatened terrestrial and aquatic wildlife and collaborate with local communities and the government to bring these areas under the existing network of wildlife sanctuaries;


  • Develop alternative livelihood opportunities for the extreme poor engaged in unsustainable resource practices;


  • Strengthen wildlife enforcement and monitoring patrols, and integrate education outreach, especially on fishery laws and rules, into them; and


  • Spread awareness about the links between community resilience to natural disasters and climate change impacts, sustainable fisheries and biodiversity conservation, and the protection of mangroves and the tidal waterways that sustain them.


Learn more.