Shahriar Caesar Rahman
Shahriar Caesar Rahman works in the remote Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, which is part of the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot. In this hostile environment, entrenched in complex insurgent issues, he has conducted biodiversity surveys in the area which resulted in the most comprehensive wildlife survey done in the region. He documented 26 globally-threatened species persisting in the Sangu Reserve Forest. Shahriar also discovered the critically endangered Arakan forest turtle and keeled box turtle for the first time in Bangladesh, as well as rediscovered populations of the largest tortoise in Asia: the Asian giant tortoise, which was thought to be extirpated from Bangladesh.
In 2015, he initiated the Schools for Conservation programme, which established four primary schools in the remotest villages of the Sangu Reserve Forest. In exchange for these primary schools, the villagers agreed to cease hunting the Asian giant tortoise and fourteen other highly threatened wildlife species. The survey data show a reduction of turtle hunting by 80%. While the hunting mitigation programme has proven to be successful, it is not enough to ensure the long-term survival of this species and its habitat.
Subsistence hunting practices by the indigenous people and the destruction of the forest for agricultural practices are the major threats to the survival of the Asian giant tortoise in this region. Hunting and habitat loss may cause the extirpation of this iconic flagship species within a mere few years if no intervening action is taken. Shahriar is committed to bringing it back from the brink of extinction.
“Mr Rahman has demonstrated the wisdom of combining top-down with bottom-down approaches to species conservation across diverse landscapes. His innovation in mobilizing primary schooling opportunities to the communities of remote villages is a fundamental step forward in conservation strategies. He has proven that tenacity, vision, and personal commitment can achieve results even in the poorest and least cared-for countries of the world.” – 2017, Brian Huntley, International Selection Committee