Abhishek Law KOLKATA, Feb. 9: Global warming seems to have taken its toll not only on the mangrove cover of the Sundarbans, but also on the habitat and food habits of tigers in the area. Wildlife experts have observed that the tigers now prefer to move away from the sparsely populated southern fringes to the densely populated northern parts of the Sundarbans.
This movement of the big cats has resulted in an increase in the number of man-animal conflicts and tiger attacks on human beings in the northern villages of the Sundarbans over the past years.
Mr Pranabes Sanyal, former chief conservator of forest (wildlife), West Bengal, said: “Tiger sightings in the northern parts of Sundarbans have increased substantially over the past few years. Since the northern part of the Sundarbans is more populated compared to the south, chances of man-animal conflict in the areas have increased considerably.”
The reason for this migration has also been attributed to global warming. Explaining the reasons, Prof. Sanyal said that with an increase in temperatures across the world there has been an increase in sea levels leading to an increase in the salinity levels of the water in the Sundarbans.
Tigers are not known to drink saline water, but because of the scarcity of fresh water, they have had to change their food habits. With salinity levels increasing further, the big cats have preferred to move towards the northern fringes where the water has a comparatively low salinity level, Prof. Sanyal explained.
He added that around the 1980s, most tiger sightings in Sundarbans were near the Haldibari area, while in the 1990s most tiger sightings were from the Netidhopani areas of the Central Sundarbans. Post 1998, however, maximum sightings have been in the Sudhannakhali area of the Sundarbans.
“The Sudhannakhali area is the transition zone ~ from sparse population to dense population. Increase in tiger sightings in the area means increasing chances of man-animal conflict,” the former bureaucrat said.
Giving instances of this rising man-animal conflict Prof Sanyal said that in the last six months, seven persons have died in the Panchamakhali block. Similar instances of man-animal conflict have also been reported from the Shanshunagar Kalitala areas of the Sundarbans, where cases of tigers attacking motor-cyclists have been reported.
Asked about notifying the state government regarding increasing tiger attacks in the area, Prof. Sanyal said that the number of deaths in the areas has been low, with only one death in 2007. “In 2007, a tiger attacked a student ~ Rupali Bauli in these areas,” Prof. Sanyal said.
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