Climate change leading to increase in tiger attacks in Sundarban islands

October 22nd, 2008 - 1:28 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Oct 22 (ANI): Conservation experts have said that the number of tiger attacks on people is growing in Indias Sundarban islands as habitat loss and dwindling prey caused by climate change drives them to prowl into villages for food.

The Sundarbans, a 26,000 sq km area of low-lying swamps on Indias border with Bangladesh, is dotted with hundreds of small islands criss-crossed by water channels.

According to a report in New Scientist, wildlife experts said that endangered tigers in the worlds largest reserve are turning on humans because rising sea levels and coastal erosion are steadily shrinking the tigers natural habitat.

In the past six months, seven fishermen were killed in an area called Netidhopani, said Pranabes Sanyal of the World Conservation Union.

Owing to global warming, the fragile Sundarbans lost 28 percent of its habitat in the last 40 years. A part of it is the core tiger reserve area from where their prey migrated, he added.

But as sea levels rise, two islands have already disappeared and others are vulnerable.

Wildlife experts said that the destruction of the mangroves means the tigers most common prey, such as crocodiles, fish and big crabs, is dwindling.

Mangroves have been overexposed to salt water as sea levels rise. Many plants have lost their red and green colours and are more like bare twigs, exposing tigers to poachers who hunt them for their skin and bones.

Sundarban villagers pass through tiger territory on boats to fish in the sea, or to collect honey in forest areas.

Villagers are not supposed to enter a number of islands earmarked as tiger territories, but they seldom follow the rules, get attacked and claim compensation, said Pradip Shukla, a senior forest department official.

Once home to 500 tigers in the late 1960s, the Sundarbans may only shelter between 250 and 270 tigers now, wildlife officials said.

The Indian Statistical Institute said that the number is as low as 75. Most tigers have been wiped out due to poaching and habitat loss.

According to authorities, a tiger was killed by poachers in the Sundarbans earlier this month, the latest such killing in India.

The area is the worlds largest mangrove reserve and one of the most unique ecosystems in South Asia, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ullas Karanth, of the Wildlife Conservation Society India, said that the Sundarbans are a poor quality tiger habitat because of low prey densities.

The tendency to seek alternate prey in the form of livestock and sometimes humans might be higher in these tigers, Karanth said. (ANI)

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