Tiger-human conflicts on the rise in Sundarbans
6 May 2009, 1155 hrs IST, ANI
WASHINGTON: Reports indicate that constant face-offs between humans and tigers in India’s Sundarbans region are on the rise, with tiger populations dwindling and rising seas pushing humans into the territory of the big cats.
The 2,700-square-mile mangrove forest in the Sundarbans is the world’s largest, and the region is one of the few remaining natural tiger habitats in India.
But, according to a report in National Geographic News, the predator’s long shadow looms large over village life. Local government records report that each year about 40 people are attacked by tigers.
There are several ‘tiger widows’, which is a local term used to describe women whose husbands have fallen victims to tiger attacks.
Once more common in the south, where no humans live, tigers have been increasingly seen in northern woods, closer to inhabited islands.
At the same time, rising sea levels, erosion and increasingly brackish waters have ruined once-dependable crops, forcing farmers to venture into the tigers’ domain in search of fish, crabs and honey to sell.
Sundarbans is an established tiger protection zone, and to ward off tigers from creeping into populated villages, officials have built a nylon fence around the tiger reserve.
Patrolling and monitoring of the big cats’ movements within the region has also been stepped up.
The government now wants to recruit retired soldiers to patrol tiger sanctuaries in the hopes of saving the last of the cats.
There are only 1,500 left in India’s reserves and jungles – down from about 3,600 six years ago and an estimated 40,000 a century ago.