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Fears for rare tigers after SAsia cyclone

Fears for rare tigers after SAsia cyclone

5/27/2009

DHAKA (AFP) — Conservationists in Bangladesh and India on Wednesday launched a search in the world’s largest mangrove forest for endangered Bengal tigers following a cyclone that killed at least 180 people.

The storm caused havoc in the Sundarbans mangrove forest, and drove a tidal wave of saltwater inland.

Abani Bhusan Thakur, chief Bangladesh official for the Sundarbans, told AFP the forest had taken the brunt of Cyclone Aila, which hit Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal on Monday.

He said forest workers would now search the 10,000-square-kilometre (4,000-square-mile) belt, where a recent UN survey estimated 650 Bengal Tigers live.

“The entire mangrove forest was flooded by a huge tidal surge. There are some freshwater ponds which the tigers drink from, but now everything is salty,” Thakur said.

“We are worried about the fate of the tigers. We need to get fresh drinking water to the area for them.”

In India one of the rare tigers swam into a village looking for dry ground, Subrata Mukherjee, the director of the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve, said.

He said it had been tranquilised and put in cage, and would be soon be set free.

“We fear that other Bengal tigers may have been swept away by the giant waves,” he added.

At least one tiger died in November 2007 during Cyclone Sidr which killed more than 3,500 people.

The Sundarbans forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, lies on the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers, straddling the border between India and Bangladesh.

The IUCN Red List estimates there are less than 2,500 Bengal tigers left in the world.

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