Kochi: Rising sea levels caused by climate change threaten to wipe out Sundarbans, a large mangrove forest area shared by India and Bangladesh, and thus world's beautiful Bengal tigers, according to a leading conservation organisation.
"Without mitigation efforts, projected sea level rise nearly a foot by 2070 could destroy nearly the entire Sundarbans tiger habitat," International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said quoting a WWF study on the occasion of International Tiger Day Wednesday.
The world's largest tiger population is found in the Sundarbans, on the northern coast of the Indian ocean.
"This area harbours Bengal tigers and protects coastal regions from storm surges and wind damage. However, rising sea levels that were caused by climate change threaten to wipe out these forests and the last remaining habitat of this tiger population," IUCN said in a post on its portal tigerday.Org.
In an alarming report published on International Tiger Day, IUCN also said there are only 3000 big cats in wild today despite tiger population in India, which consists of 70 per cent of tigers in the world, has shown a steady increase.
"Time is short. Right now, the number of wild tiger is at its lowest ever! We have lost 97 per cent of all wild tigers in a bit over 100 years.
"Instead of 100,000, as few as 3000 live in the wild today, last year it was 3200! At this rate, all tigers living in the wild could be extinct in 5 years!," IUCN said.
The number of tigers in the country has increased by 30 per cent since 2010 to 2,226 in 2014 according to the tiger census released early this year.
Meanwhile, in a statement IUCN Director General Inger Andersen said "it's inconceivable that this magnificent creature which inspired the awe and wonder of our childhood could be pushed to the brink of extinction."
"...What is needed to safeguard tiger populations in the long term. It requires conserving and restoring habitats, carefully monitoring populations, and bringing an end to poaching," Anderson said.
The top IUCN official also described the tiger as an "iconic beast of the forest, a symbol of strength, grace and power."