POST TIME: 15 February, 2019 01:07:32 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 15 February, 2019 12:53:04 PM
Tigers may go extinct in 50 years
Climate change in Sundarbans
UNB, Dhaka

Tigers may go extinct in 50 years

A new study has warned that the Sundarbans' famed 'Royal Bengal Tigers' could be gone within 50 years, especially from the Bangladeshi part, because of constant rise in sea levels and climate change. The study titled 'Combined effects of climate change and sea-level rise project dramatic habitat loss of the globally endangered Bengal tiger in the Bangladesh Sundarbans', carried out by a team of Bangladeshi and Australian scientists, revealed that constant rise in sea levels and climate change could bring a catastrophic situation to the mangroves of Sundarbans-the iconic Bengal tiger's last coastal stronghold and the world's biggest mangrove forest It has been published in the journal Science of The Total Environment.

"Fewer than 4,000 Bengal tigers are alive today," said James Cook University's Professor Bill Laurance, a co-author of the study. "That's a really low number for the world's biggest cat, which used to be far more abundant but today is mainly confined to small areas of India and Bangladesh," he said.

"Spanning more than 10,000 square kilometres, the Sundarbans region of Bangladesh and India is the biggest mangrove forest on Earth, and also the most critical area for Bengal tiger survival," said lead-author Dr Sharif Mukul, an assistant professor at Independent University Bangladesh.

"What is most terrifying is that our analyses suggest tiger habitats in the Sundarbans will vanish entirely by 2070," said Dr Mukul. The researchers used computer simulations to assess the future suitability of the low-lying Sundarban region for tigers and their prey species, using mainstream estimates of climatic trends from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Their analyses included factors such as extreme weather events and sea-level rise.

"Beyond climate change, the Sundarbans are under growing pressure from industrial developments, new roads, and greater poaching,” said Professor Laurance. “So, tigers are getting a double whammy—greater human encroachment on the one hand and a worsening climate and associated sea-level rises on the other,” he said.

But the researchers emphasise there is still hope. “The more of the Sundarbans that can be conserved—via new protected areas and reducing illegal poaching—the more resilient it will be to future climatic extremes and rising sea levels,” said Professor Laurance.

“Our analyses are a preliminary picture of what could happen if we don’t start to look after Bengal tigers and their critical habitats,” said Dr Mukul. “There is no other place like the Sundarbans left on Earth,” said Professor Laurance. “We have to look after this iconic ecosystem if we want amazing animals like the Bengal tiger to have a chance of survival,” he added.

The current tiger population in the Sundarbans is unknown and the Forest Department has undertaken a project to determine the number of tigers in the mangrove forest. The results of the study are likely to be known this year.

According to the Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation Division, the previous census began in November 2013 and ended in 2015. Using camera trap photos collected by 90 cameras, only 106 tigers were found living in the Sundarbans. The population was 453 in 1982 and 440 in 2004, according to the Forest Department. It attributed the massive drop in numbers in just a decade to illegal poaching of wildlife and increasing human-tiger conflict. At least 49 tigers were killed between 2001 and 2014, according to a Forest Department official.

The Royal Bengal Tiger has been listed as “endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species since 2010.

In the Sunbarbans, every tiger, known as flagship species of the forest, identifies a 14-16 sqkm area as its home range for living and tigers roam almost throughout the forest. Experts say the tigers of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest abode of the big majestic cat, are now well-protected and their movement is safe as the activities of forest robbers and poachers have decreased to a large extent following smart patrolling in the forest.

According to the Forest Department, no tiger was killed by poachers in the mangrove forest after 2015. “There’s no activity of any poaching gang in the Sundarbans as the Forest Department increased vigilance at the entries through which the poachers used to enter the forest,” a forest department official had informed the media.