Tiger attacks in the Sundarbans

Last updated

Tiger attacks in the Sundarbans , in India and Bangladesh are estimated to kill from 0-50 (mean of 22.7 between 1947 and 1983) people per year. [1] The Sundarbans is home to over 100 [2] Bengal tigers, [3] one of the largest single populations of tigers in one area. Before modern times, Sundarbans were said to "regularly kill fifty or sixty people a year". [4]

Tiger attack Human-animal conflict

Tiger attacks are an extreme form of human–wildlife conflict which occur for various reasons and have claimed more human lives than attacks by any of the other big cats. The most comprehensive study of deaths due to tiger attacks estimates that at least 373,000 people died due to tiger attacks between 1800 and 2009, the majority of these attacks occurring in South and Southeast Asia. Over the last five centuries, an estimated 1 million people have been eaten by tigers. In Southeast Asia, attacks gradually declined after peaking in the nineteenth century, but attacks in South Asia have remained high, particularly in the Sundarbans.

Sundarbans The worlds largest mangrove forest located in the delta of Ganges, Meghna and Brahmaputra rivers in the Bay of Bengal

The Sundarbans is a mangrove area in the delta formed by the confluence of Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers in the Bay of Bengal. It spans from the Hooghly River in India's state of West Bengal to the Baleswar River in Bangladesh. It comprises closed and open mangrove forests, agriculturally used land, mudflats and barren land, and is intersected by multiple tidal streams and channels. Four protected areas in the Sundarbans are enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, viz Sundarbans National Park, Sundarbans West, Sundarbans South and Sundarbans East Wildlife Sanctuaries.

India Country in South Asia

India, officially the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

Contents

These tigers are a little smaller and slimmer than those elsewhere in India but remain extremely powerful and are infamous for destroying small wooden boats. They are not the only tigers who live close to humans; in Bandhavgarh, villages encircle the tiger reserves, and yet attacks on people are rare. Although attacks were stalled temporarily in 2004 with new precautions, they have been on the rise. This is particularly due to the devastation on the Bangladeshi side of the swamp caused by Cyclone Sidr which has deprived tigers of traditional food sources (due to the natural upheaval) and has pushed them over towards the more populated Indian side of the swamp. [5]

Cyclone Sidr North Indian cyclone in 2007

Cyclone Sidr was a tropical cyclone that resulted in one of the worst natural disasters in Bangladesh. The fourth named storm of the 2007 North Indian Ocean cyclone season, Sidr formed in the central Bay of Bengal, and quickly strengthened to reach peak 1-minute sustained winds of 260 km/h (160 mph), making it a Category-5 equivalent tropical cyclone on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. The storm eventually made landfall in Bangladesh on November 15, 2007, causing large-scale evacuations. At least 3,447 deaths have been blamed on the storm, with some estimates reaching 15,000.

A Bengal tiger Panthera tigris tigris.jpg
A Bengal tiger

Precautions

The locals and government officials take certain precautions to prevent attacks. Local fishermen will say prayers and perform rituals to the forest goddess, Bonbibi , before setting out on expeditions. Invocations to the tiger god Dakshin Rai are also considered a necessity by the local populace for safe passage throughout the Sundarbans area. Fishermen and bushmen originally created masks made to look like faces to wear on the back of their heads because tigers always attack from behind. This worked for a short time, but the tigers quickly realized it was a hoax, and the attacks reportedly continued. One local honey gatherer, Surendra Jana, 57, expressed that the tigers seem to have caught on to the mask trick, "Before we could understand the way they attacked. We don't feel safe any more, knowing our brothers have been attacked in spite of the tricks we use." [6] Government officials wear stiff pads that rise up the back of the neck, similar to the pads of an American football player. This is to prevent the tigers from biting into the spine, which is their favored attack method. [7]

Bonbibi Guardian spirit venerated by both Hindu and Muslim residents of the Sundarbans, Bengal

Banbibi, the lady of the forest, also Bandevi, Bandurga and Byaghradevi is a guardian spirit of the forests venerated by both the Hindu and the Muslim residents of the Sundarbans. She is called upon mostly by the honey-collectors and the woodcutters before entering the forest for protection against the attacks from the tigers. It is believed that the demon king, Dakkhin Rai, an arch-enemy of Banbibi actually appears in the disguise of a tiger and attacks human beings.

Dakshin Rai Deity in the Sundarbans in India and Bangladesh

Dakshin Ray is revered deity in the Sundarbans in India and Bangladesh who rules over beasts and demons. He is regarded as the overall ruler of the Sundarbans. The God is worshiped by all those who enter the Sunderban forests of West Bengal, for subsistence, irrespective of their caste, creed or religion.

American football Team field sport

American football, referred to as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular field with goalposts at each end. The offense, the team with possession of the oval-shaped football, attempts to advance down the field by running with the ball or passing it, while the defense, the team without possession of the ball, aims to stop the offense's advance and to take control of the ball for themselves. The offense must advance at least ten yards in four downs or plays; if they fail, they turn over the football to the defense, but if they succeed, they are given a new set of four downs to continue the drive. Points are scored primarily by advancing the ball into the opposing team's end zone for a touchdown or kicking the ball through the opponent's goalposts for a field goal. The team with the most points at the end of a game wins.

Causes of the attacks

No one is exactly sure why the tigers of the Sundarbans are so aggressive towards humans, but scientists, biologists, and others have speculated about a number of reasons. These include:

Fresh water Naturally occurring water with low amounts of dissolved salts

Fresh water is any naturally occurring water except seawater and brackish water. Fresh water includes water in ice sheets, ice caps, glaciers, icebergs, bogs, ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, and even underground water called groundwater. Fresh water is generally characterized by having low concentrations of dissolved salts and other total dissolved solids. Though the term specifically excludes seawater and brackish water, it does include mineral-rich waters such as chalybeate springs.

Feces solid or semisolid remains of the food that could not be digested in the small intestine

Feces are the solid or semisolid remains of food that could not be digested in the small intestine. Bacteria in the large intestine further break down the material. Feces contain a relatively small amount of metabolic waste products such as bacterially altered bilirubin, and the dead epithelial cells from the lining of the gut.

Animal Kingdom of motile multicellular eukaryotic heterotrophic organisms

Animals are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals consume organic material, breathe oxygen, are able to move, can reproduce sexually, and grow from a hollow sphere of cells, the blastula, during embryonic development. Over 1.5 million living animal species have been described—of which around 1 million are insects—but it has been estimated there are over 7 million animal species in total. Animals range in length from 8.5 millionths of a metre to 33.6 metres (110 ft). They have complex interactions with each other and their environments, forming intricate food webs. The kingdom Animalia includes humans, but in colloquial use the term animal often refers only to non-human animals. The study of non-human animals is known as zoology.

About 5,000 people frequent the swamps and waterways of the Sundarbans. Fishing boats traverse the area and many stop to collect firewood, honey and other items. In the dark forest, tigers find it easy to stalk and attack men absorbed in their work. Even fishermen in small boats have been attacked due to tigers' strong swimming abilities. [8]

Responses to the attacks

Local villagers, who fear tiger attacks and resent the animal for killing their livestock, sometimes engage in revenge killings. On one occasion, a tiger had attacked and wounded the people in a village in south-west Bangladesh (near the Sundarbans) and frequently preyed upon their livestock. This roused the wrath of the villagers, and the feline became a target for their retribution. Poachers are also responsible for killing tigers in the reserve in an effort to sell them on the black market. [9]

The human death rate has dropped significantly due to better management techniques and fewer people are killed each year. Even at the rate of fifty or sixty kills per year, humans would provide only about three percent of the yearly food requirements for the tiger population of the Sundarbans. Thus, humans are only a supplement to the tiger's diet; they do not provide a primary food source. [10] This does not mean that the notoriety associated with this area is unfounded. Even if only 3% of a tiger's diet is human meat, that still amounts to the tiger killing and eating about one person per year, given the amount of food a tiger typically eats. [11]

Villagers in the area have agreed to occasionally release livestock into the forest in order to provide an alternative food source for the tigers and discourage them from entering the villages. The government has agreed to subsidize the project to encourage village participation. [12]

See also

Related Research Articles

Bengal tiger subspecies of tiger

The Bengal tiger is a Panthera tigris tigris population native to the Indian subcontinent. It is threatened by poaching, loss, and fragmentation of habitat, and was estimated at comprising fewer than 2,500 individuals by 2011. None of the Tiger Conservation Landscapes within its range is considered large enough to support an effective population of more than 250 adult individuals. India's tiger population was estimated at 1,706–1,909 individuals in 2010. By 2018, the population had increased to an estimated 2,603–3,346 individuals. Around 440 tigers are estimated in Bangladesh, 163–253 tigers in Nepal and 103 tigers in Bhutan.

Fishing cat Small wild cat

The fishing cat is a medium-sized wild cat of South and Southeast Asia. Since 2016, it is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Fishing cat populations are threatened by destruction of wetlands and have declined severely over the last decade. The fishing cat lives foremost in the vicinity of wetlands, along rivers, streams, oxbow lakes, in swamps, and mangroves.

Asian black bear species of mammal

The Asian black bear, also known as the Asiatic black bear, moon bear and the white-chested bear, is a medium-sized bear species native to Asia and largely adapted to arboreal life. It lives in the Himalayas, in the northern parts of the Indian subcontinent, the Korean Peninsula, northeastern China, the Russian Far East, the Honshū and Shikoku islands of Japan, and Taiwan. It is classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), mostly because of deforestation and hunting for its body parts.

Ganges Delta river delta

The Ganges Delta is a river delta in the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent, consisting of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal. It is the world's largest delta and empties into the Bay of Bengal the combined waters of several river systems, mainly those of the Brahmaputra river and the Ganges river. It is also one of the most fertile regions in the world, thus earning the nickname the Green Delta. The delta stretches from the Hooghly River east as far as the Meghna River.

Sundarbans National Park National Park, Tiger Reserve, and Biosphere Reserve in West Bengal, India

The Sundarbans National Park is a national park, tiger reserve, and biosphere reserve in West Bengal, India. It is part of the Sundarbans on the Ganges Delta, and adjacent to the Sundarban Reserve Forest in Bangladesh. The delta is densely covered by mangrove forests, and is one of the largest reserves for the Bengal tiger. It is also home to a variety of bird, reptile and invertebrate species, including the salt-water crocodile. The present Sundarban National Park was declared as the core area of Sundarban Tiger Reserve in 1973 and a wildlife sanctuary in 1977. On 4 May 1984 it was declared a national park. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site inscribed in 1987, and it has been designated as a Ramsar site since 2019. It is considered as a World Network of Biosphere Reserve from 2001.

St. Martins Island island

St. Martin's Island is a small island in the northeastern part of the Bay of Bengal, about 9 km south of the tip of the Cox's Bazar-Teknaf peninsula, and forming the southernmost part of Bangladesh. There is a small adjoining island that is separated at high tide, called Chera Dwip. It is about 8 kilometres west of the northwest coast of Myanmar, at the mouth of the Naf River.

Indian leopard Leopard subspecies

The Indian leopard is a leopard subspecies widely distributed on the Indian subcontinent. The species Panthera pardus is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because populations have declined following habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching for the illegal trade of skins and body parts, and persecution due to conflict situations.

Gosaba Village in West Bengal, India

Gosaba is a village under Gosaba police station of Gosaba CD Block in Canning subdivision of South 24 Parganas district in the Indian State of West Bengal.

Kultali Village in West Bengal, India

Kultali is a village under Kultali police station of Kultali CD Block in Baruipur subdivision of South 24 Parganas district in the Indian State of West Bengal.

Sundarbans usually refers to the Sundarbans freshwater swamp forests, the term applying generally to a tropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion of India and Bangladesh. It may specifically refer to:

Man-eater is a colloquial term for an individual animal that preys on humans as a pattern of hunting behavior. This does not include the scavenging of corpses, a single attack born of opportunity or desperate hunger, or the incidental eating of a human that the animal has killed in self-defense. However, all three cases may habituate an animal to eating human flesh or to attacking humans, and may foster the development of man-eating behavior.

<i>Land of the Tiger</i> television series

Land of the Tiger is a BBC nature documentary series exploring the natural history of the Indian subcontinent, first transmitted in the UK on BBC Two in 1997. The production team covered the breadth and depth of India, from the Himalayan mountains in the north to the reef-fringed islands of the Indian Ocean, to capture footage of the country's wild places and charismatic wildlife.

Sundarbans East Wildlife Sanctuary

Sundarbans East Wildlife Sanctuary, a protected forest in Bangladesh, extends over an area of 31,227 ha. of mangrove forest. It was established in 1977 under the Bangladesh Wildlife (Preservation) (Amendment) Act, 1974, having previously been a forest reserve. It is the most fertile of the three, non-adjoining wildlife sanctuaries established in the Sundarbans at that time, the others being the Sundarbans West Wildlife Sanctuary and the Sundarbans South Wildlife Sanctuary. The dominant mangrove species is "sundri" from which the Sundarbans region gets its name.

Leopard attack

Leopard attacks are attacks inflicted upon humans, other leopards and other animals by the leopard. The frequency of leopard attacks on humans varies by geographical region and historical period. Despite the leopard's extensive range from sub-Saharan Africa to Southeast Asia, attacks are regularly reported only in India and Nepal. Among the five "big cats", leopards are less likely to become man-eaters—only jaguars and snow leopards have a less fearsome reputation. However, leopards are established predators of non-human primates, sometimes preying on species as large as the western lowland gorilla. Other primates may make up 80% of the leopard's diet. While leopards generally avoid humans, they tolerate proximity to humans better than lions and tigers, and often come into conflict with humans when raiding livestock.

WildTeam organization

WildTeam is an international conservation organisation which began in 2003 as The Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh and the Sundarbans tiger project. The Sundarbans Tiger project started out as a Bangladesh Forest Department and University of Minnesota research initiative; focusing on the ecology and conservation of tigers in the Bangladesh Sundarbans. Between 2003 and 2008, the Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh carried out research and education work in relation to Bengal tiger, Hoolock gibbon, Asian elephant, and Asian black bear.

Environmental impact of development in the Sundarbans, is the study of environmental impact on Sundarban, the largest single tract mangrove forest. It consist of a geographical area of 9,629 square kilometres (3,718 sq mi), including 4,185 square kilometres (1,616 sq mi) of reserve forest land, and is a natural region located partly in southern Bangladesh and partly in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is ecologically a southern part of the Gangetic delta between the Hooghly river in India on the west and the Meghna river in Bangladesh on the east and is bounded by the Ganga-Padma, the Padma-Meghna on the north and by the Bay of Bengal on the south. The area that is not reserve forest land is inhabited by human settlements with a total population around 4 million (2003).

Pachabdi Gazi was a famous Tiger hunter of Bangladesh.

References

  1. "Sundarban Wildlife Sanctuaries (Bangladesh)" (PDF). UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
  2. "Only 100 tigers left in Bangladesh's famed Sundarbans forest". The Guardian. Agence France-Presse. 27 July 2015.
  3. "Highlights: The Sundarbans, Bangladesh". Bangladesh Forest Department. Archived from the original on 1 June 2008. Retrieved 29 May 2008.
  4. "Maneaters: The Sundarbans". lairweb. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  5. "Tiger attacks on rise in Indian Sundarbans". dna. IANS. 30 July 2008.
  6. "The tiger widows of the Sundarbans". The National. Abu Dhabi Media. 13 February 2012.
  7. Bambrick, Larry (2003). "The Last Maneater: Killer Tigers of India". Nat Geo WILD. National Geographic Channel.
  8. "Cats! Wild to Mild: MAN-EATER?". Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Archived from the original on 15 July 2007.
  9. "Villagers beat tiger to death". BBC News. 29 May 2003. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  10. "The tiger and lion, attacks on humans". Man-eaters.[ self-published source ]
  11. Nowak, Ronald M. (1999). Walker's mammals of the world (6th ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN   0-8018-5789-9.
  12. "Critical habitat zone set up for Sundarbans tigers". Big Cat News. 29 July 2008.

Further reading