Dhaka: Bangladesh, which is a home of the
Royal Bengal Tiger, recorded the maximum number of instances
of tigers killing men last year, a phenomenon being attributed
to increasing human intrusion in the Sundarbans resulting in a
shrinking of habitat for the big cat.
"We are witnessing a growing trend of deaths caused by
tigers. Fifty people died last year, the highest number of
deaths we recorded in the past 100 years, while the figure was
24 in 2007," forest conservator Tapan Dey said.
He said the loss of big cat habitats and food sources
in southwestern Sundarbans, the world`s largest mangrove
forest which is home to the last 440 Bengal Tigers is a reason
for this number.
Dey`s comments came two days after Bangladesh joined
the World Tiger Day celebrations promising effective steps to
save the endangered big cats and planned an effective
participation in the 13-nation Tiger Conservation Summit in St
Petersburg in September.
"I will attribute the phenomenon (growing number of
deaths) on human intrusion in Sundarbans... men are not good
food for big cats but are easy prey, while the tigers are
quickly losing their main food there because of poaching,"
chief executive of Bangladesh Wildlife Trust Professor Anwarul
Islam, also a senior professor of zoology department
of the premier Dhaka University, said nearly 450,000 families
live around the Sundarbans, a stretch of 6,017 square
kilometers of forest "and their interactions with tigers are
growing day by day causing the higher death rates".
He said the Trust recently carried out a survey on 800
families living around the Sundarbans with nearly half of them
admitting that they had tasted the deer meats at least once in
the past one year that amounts to at least 150 deer.
"The survey reflects how the tigers are losing their
main food source," he said.
The last pugmark survey by the forest department and
UN Development Programme (UNDP) in 2004 estimated the number
of tigers to be around 440, including 21 cubs, and in Indian
side of the Sundarbans the tiger population was around 270.
"According to our estimates, the Sundarbans can now
accommodate as high as 400 big cats because of their
squeezed habitats and food sources both for ecological and
man-made reasons," wildlife expert Professor Mostafa Foroz of
suburban Jahangirnagar University said.
He said the Royal Bengal tigers were found across the
country even five decades ago, but they were now confined
alone to the Sunderbans.
Islam, however, said the Sundarbans, 50 per cent of
Bangladesh`s forest cover -- was still the habitat of highest
number of tiger population in a single forest zone.
However, it was exposed to ecological danger because
salinity intrusion and abnormally frequent natural disasters
like cyclones or tidal surges thought to be caused by climate
"Tigers play a key role in maintaining biodiversity,
food chain and ecology of forest... Sundarbans, one of world`s
most resourceful forests, would have been extinct without
tigers," junior minister for environment Hassan Mahmud told a
Tiger Day conference two days ago.
The tiger is treated as one of the most critically
endangered animals fast disappearing from the world. Experts
estimated the current population of all the six sub-species of
the big cat to be about 3,200 down from around 100,000 in
Tropical Bangladesh, however, drafted a tougher
anti-poaching law as part of a growing conservation campaign
to protect its endangered wildlife -- including the Royal
Bengal Tiger and its main prey, the deer population, for
The country`s existing Wildlife Conservation Act of
1974 prescribed maximum two years of imprisonment for a
poacher or smuggler alongside a penalty amounting to only Taka
2,000 taka (USD 30).
According to an International Union for Conservation
of Nature (IUCN) study more than 13 species have become
extinct in Bangladesh over the past 40 years, and over 100
species are now considered endangered or critically