Sunday, January 17, 2010


So there I was, excited just by the thought of being able to enter a wildlife park; only because I wanted to see the elephants. Driving overnight in the dark all the way to Teknaf from Dhaka was an experience by itself; again I was hoping to see a few elephants on the road, especially since caution signs about it kept creeping up every few minutes.

Anyhow, after a long drive from the Parjatan hotel, we finally reached the wildlife park, which the USAID has so generously (not!) set up in Teknaf. I get off the car, along with a few colleagues, once again in the hope of sighting the elephants I have been waiting to see for so long.

As soon as we approach the gate, the guards walk up only to disappoint us. So the park was closed! But either way, I was determined to collect some information regarding their service inside the park, so that in the future when I bring in tourists with me, I will be well prepared to cater their needs, and answer their questions.

At that point, one colleague asks the guards what the entry fee is for both local and foreign candidates. The reply was ten Taka for locals and a whole five dollars, meaning three hundred and fifty Taka for foreigners. Well understandable, foreign tourists are meant to carry a heavy account while travelling anyway. That part I can deal with, but what really disturbed me is a story by itself.

So, as we were all standing and talking in front of the wildpark, one guard turns to me and says “I can’t even take you inside to hear the birds chirping; the music box is down.” For a moment I was speechless, and then burst into laughter.

Then the guard tells me how they usually provide a guide which they charge 200 taka per hour for, with no security, or guarantee of spotting any elephants or other animals once inside the par. I understand that the park is supposed to be a natural forest, where the animals are free to be where they want to be, and thus no guarantee can be really provided on the spotting of any of the animals at a specific area. But at the same time, the guides should be somewhat knowledgeable about the whereabouts of these animals, if that is what their job entails.

Anyways, my point then is that USAID is simply sucking money out of people.

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