Pandemic comes as ‘blessing in disguise’ for the tigers of the Sundarbans

  • Alip Ghatak and Moinul Hoque Chowdhury, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-07-29 09:47:27 BdST

Poachers still stalk the Sundarbans, but the rate of tiger death has decreased thanks to drives and patrols by law-enforcement agencies and government efforts.

More recently, the coronavirus pandemic has come as a “blessing in disguise” for the big cats of the UNESCO World Heritage site.  

Fishermen place fish traps in the river before arrival of tides in the Andharmanik area of Sundarbans’ Chandpai range. Photo: Mostafigur Rahman

Fishermen place fish traps in the river before arrival of tides in the Andharmanik area of Sundarbans’ Chandpai range. Photo: Mostafigur Rahman

The mangrove forest, closed to tourists for five months now, is becoming more favourable for the reproduction of animals, with no death of a tiger in the hands of the poachers reported in this period.

Forest officials now hope the number of the national animals, listed endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN, will grow further.

The tigers are getting a more friendly habitat as the tourists stopped coming to the forest in March while fishing has been banned for July and August, Md Amir Hosain Chowdhury, the chief conservator of forest, said on the eve of International Tiger Day.

A pair of lesser adjutants roaming in the Katka Sanctuary in the Sundarbans. Photo: Mostafigur Rahman

A pair of lesser adjutants roaming in the Katka Sanctuary in the Sundarbans. Photo: Mostafigur Rahman

Moreover, the local and international travel curbs due to the pandemic reduced animal trafficking.

A 14-year-old tiger died at the Andharmanik camp recently, but Chowdhury described it as a natural death.   

The Sundarbans Tiger Project to save the species Panthera Tigris has also yielded results, with the number of tigers in the forest rising from 106 in 2014 to 114 in 2019, the conservator said.

Human-tiger conflicts have declined in recent years. The last tiger death in human habitats was reported in 2018.

“The results are positive because of the efforts of the government, private organisations and the local communities,” Chowdhury said. The next survey scheduled for 2021-22 will show more tigers.

DEATHS OF 38 TIGERS IN 2 DECADES

As many as 38 tigers died in the Sundarbans in two decades from poaching and beating by locals. The deaths include 22 in the East Zone and 16 in the West Zone.

Poachers killed 10 tigers and locals beat to death six others in the East Zone in this period, while the West Zone reported no tiger’s death from poaching but nine from beating.

Mohammad Belayet Hossain, the divisional forest officer in the east, said the government had taken steps to reduce human-tiger conflicts by creating jobs for those depending on the Sundarbans.

West Zone DFO Md Bashirul Al Mamun said the Forest Department’s teams always patrol the Sundarbans to save the tigers from poachers.

The department retrieved six tiger hides between 2004 and 2015. The cases over the recoveries led to the jailing of the culprits.