The first thing that comes to anyone’s mind, when the word Sundarban is mentioned, is definitely the Royal Bengal Tiger. The world’s largest mangrove forest is the home to this majestic and unique beast. The Royal Bengal Tiger is undoubtedly unique due to its morphological distinction from the recognized subspecies of tigers, and the Sundarban happens to be the last of the coastal strongholds of this species. However, it is truly a sad reality that this pride of the country has been in dire threats from several factors for the last couple of years.
The threats to the tigers of Sundarban
The Bengal tiger has had to deal with the poachers and forest robbers for the longest time, but now, another threat looms large as well: the climate change. Sundarban span more than a 1, 000 km sq. Going by the predictions and calculations of scientists, the land will be completely wiped out in the next fifty years, and take the tiger population along with it.
According to researchers of the Independent University in Bangladesh, at the current rate of climate change, the entire species risk a complete extinction by 2070. The researchers utilized computer simulations for understanding the time left for the region before submerging completely underwater and the possibility of the survival of Sundarban forest animals under such conditions. The simulations involved in the study were the extent of sea-level rise, extreme weather phenomenon, and climatic trends from data supplied by IPCC, and all in all, it paints a very grim picture for the Tigers.
When it comes to poaching, there is no denying the fact that this has always been a persistent problem of the land. Gangs of poachers have been active in the villages surrounding Sundarban for a long time, and until 1973, there were no strict laws to ban the activities of the poachers. It was in 1974 when strict laws for tiger protection began to come up, but the population of the tiger species had already dwindled significantly by then.
Another serious problem faced by the tigers is the loss of habitat, which makes them turn to the nearby villages for survival. With the continuously rising water levels and the increasing salinity of the land, the Tigers continue to inch closer towards the villages, and the news like Sundarban tiger attacks boat, tiger attacks fisherman, and so on become more common.
The glimpse of hope for the tigers
Taking into account all the threats to the condition of the Royal Bengal Tigers, there is still no reason to think that all is lost for this species of the big cats. The initiatives like Project Tiger by India and the Bangladesh Wild Life Preservation and Amendment Act in 1973, have taken some major steps in decreasing poaching activities in the land and ensuring a stable tiger population. To add to that, the country’s tiger count of 1,411 in 2006, was like a wakeup call for the entire nation, and significant measures taken for tiger and forest conservation led to an increase in the numbers by 2,226 in the year 2014.
According to the latest reports, the tiger population of Sundarban has reached an almost stable position. The surveys of 2014 had put the number at 76 for the area. A survey conducted by WWF and the West Bengal forest department in the year 2016 kept the minimum number of tigers in the region at 83. It is not yet time to predict an exact number for the present tiger population of Sundarban, as the report for the joint tiger census of India and Bangladesh are yet to be published.
Though the situation is grave, the tiger population still stands a chance at being saved if proper steps are taken regarding their conservation. Enforcing new legislation for the protected areas and reduced poaching activities can ensure that the royal beasts become more resilient to the rising sea levels and future climatic changes.