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The Land of Conflict (2019 - Ongoing)

The Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest and the only mangrove habitat of the endangered Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), is facing a threat from climate change. As sea levels rise, land erosion increases, and cyclones become more frequent, the tigers’ habitat and prey are shrinking, forcing them to venture closer to human settlements and islanders’ increasing dependency on jungle for livelihood is increasing the risk of conflict.
 

Body cam footages of a rescue operation, 12.26.2021 - 12.28.2021

The Bengal tiger is the most numerous of the six-tiger subspecies, accounting for about half of the world’s population of wild tigers. The Sundarbans tigers are unique because they are almost amphibious and spend long periods of time in the saline water. The Sundarbans tigers are known for their human hunting behaviour, which has been attributed to various factors, such as the saltiness of the water, the lack of territorial markers, the scarcity of natural prey and frequent encounters with humans. The tiger population in the Indian part of the Sundarbans has increased from 88 in 2018 to 101 in 2022. A male tiger in the Sundarbans requires about 4-6 square kilometres of area for movement but the rising sea level, which has increased by 6-12 millimetresper year in the region, has reduced the land area of the forest by 200 square kilometres in the last 60 years.

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The loss of habitat, caused by frequent cyclone and floods have also affected the livelihoods of the local people and increased dependency on fishing, honey collection, and crab harvesting in the forest. Many of them enter the forest without legal permits, exposing themselves to the risk of tiger attacks. The data on human deaths as well as injuries due to tiger attacks is not publicly available, and there are discrepancies between the official and unofficial sources. The forest department claims that the number of deaths is around a dozen per year, while the local media and NGOs report twice as many. The compensation for the victims and their families is also inadequate and often delayed. The data on tiger deaths and injuries is also scarce and unreliable. The forest department says that there are no confirmed cases of tiger deaths due to human-tiger conflict, but the people who have faced off with tigers say otherwise.

The reports suggest that climate change could probably eradicate the entire mangrove habitat of Bengal tigers by 2070.

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Reach out to mravijitghosh08[at]gmail.com to know more about this work.

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