By Shah Mamunul Haque Vuya
Global Tiger Day has been observed on Monday amid concern over tiger poaching, tiger-human conflict, and other related threats to its habitats. This year the slogan of Global Tiger Day was – ‘Save tigers, Save the Motherly Sundarbans.’ Over the last hundred years, the global tiger population, spread among 13 countries, has come down from one lakh to only 3,700.
According to the 2004 Tiger Census, the Bangladesh part of the Sundarbans, the largest habitat of the tigers around the world, hosts only 440 tigers. However, the Forest Department (FD) officials are unable to give any idea about the size of tiger population at present.
From 2001 to 2012, the FD officials recorded 32 incidents of tiger killing by local people when the regal beast strayed to the human habitation. On the other hand, 260 people – fishermen, honey collectors, villagers – were killed by tigers in encounters inside the forest, according to FD records. The FD and other environment related organizations brought out rallies and organized discussion meeting marking day.
The increasing demand of the forest resources by humans as well as food shortage for young tigers and inability of old tigers to hunt faster animals of their prey are the main reasons behind the rise in the tiger-human conflict. Poaching deer for consumption of its meat creates a shortage of tiger’s food as deer provides 80 percent of their diet, showed a Wild Team study in 2010. The study also showed that about 18 percent of the 3.6 million people living in eight upazilas of the Sundarbans region frequently consume the venison with 92 percent of the meat supply coming from the Sundarbans and 0.25 percent from deer farms. Experts also held that climatic factors like sea-level rise and saline water intrusion may also affect the coexistence of the big carnivores and the humans in the Sundarbans. The hypotheses are yet to be validated by studies.
Like the other tiger habitats, poaching has also been one of the major threats to the tiger population in Bangladesh part of the Sundarbans.