There is an increase in the amount of tiger attacks on people in India’s Sundarban islands as the loss of their native habitats and decreasing prey caused by the problematic climate change forces them to stalk villages for food, experts announced Monday.
Experts state that the endangered tigers located in the world’s biggest reserve are attacking humans as rising sea levels and coastal erosion is gradually reducing the tigers’ natural habitat.
The Sundarbans, a 10,000 sq mile area of swamps located on India’s border with Bangladesh, is covered with many little islands connected and surrounded by water channels.
“In the past six months, seven fishermen were killed in an area called Netidhopani,” Pranabes Sanyal of the World Conservation Union announced.
“Owing to global warming, the fragile Sundarbans lost 28 percent of its habitat in the last 40 years,” he added. “A part of it is the core tiger reserve area from where their prey migrated.”
As the sea levels climb, two of these islands have already vanished and others are at risk for the same fate. Wildlife experts say the devastation of these areas means that the tigers’ major prey, like crocodiles, fish and big crabs, are declining.
Sundarban villagers regularly travel through tiger territories in boats to go fishing in the sea, and to gather honey in forest regions.
“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,” Pradip Shukla, a senior forest department official said.
Local villager Ashutosh Dhali commented on his 15 minutes of fame after television cameras caught him being attacked by a tiger in February.
“We were trying to catch the tiger perched on a tree of our village with tranquilizer shots,” said Dhali. “But it flung on me after falling on a net and bit my loins.”
Once sheltering 500 tigers in the 1960s, the Sundarbans only has about 250 to 270 tigers now, officials say. The Indian Statistical Institute approximates the amount is about 75.
The majority of tigers have been lost to poaching and the loss of their habitats.
Ullas Karanth, of the Wildlife Conservation Society India, states that the Sundarbans are not a good place for tigers to live because of the low prey.
“The tendency to seek alternate prey in the form of livestock — and sometimes humans — might be higher in these tigers,” Karanth said.
There were 40,000 tigers in India last century. A government poll released this year says the tiger population has decreased to 1,411, less than 3,642 in 2002, mainly because of deteriorating habitats and poaching.