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Climate change threatens one of the Bengal tiger’s last refuges

Climate change threatens one of the Bengal tiger's last refuges

Ground Report | New Delhi: Climate change Bengal tiger; Equally feared and revered is one of the world’s most iconic creatures: the majestic Bengal tiger. They are threatened by poaching, and humans are expanding into their shrinking habitats, so researchers say that in just 50 years it could completely disappear from one of its last remaining strongholds: a huge mangrove forest called Sundarbans, which runs from India to Bangladesh.

Climate change Bengal tiger

Over the past century, we have lost 95% of all the world’s tigers, leaving fewer than 4,000 in the wild. Bengal tigers are found in a handful of Asian countries, India and Bangladesh, but only a few hundred still roam free in the Sundarbans. They cover more than 10,000 square kilometers but this flat area is shrinking rapidly, with some of its islands being submerged as local sea levels rise much faster than the world average.

Between 2004 and 2015, the number of Bengal tigers fell from 440 to 106 in the Sundarbans of Bangladesh. That number is “dangerously low,” said Dipankar Ghose, director of the species and landscapes program at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), due to “a growing poaching crisis, habitat degradation and fragmentation.”

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The global tiger population is currently estimated at just under 4,000, with illegal tiger parts trade, hunting and habitat loss eliminating the population by 96% from 100,000 in 1990, according to the study. Three of the eight tiger subspecies are now extinct, and the remaining five species are currently “endangered” or “critically endangered.”

As global temperatures rise and the melting of polar ice raises sea levels, the influx of salty seawater can make it difficult for certain plants to grow, subsequently reducing the availability of certain types of food. The Sundarbans’ spotted deer population, a key food source for the Bengal tiger, is likely to be affected as the leaves on the trees it feeds on begin to fade. As resources become scarcer, tigers are more likely to enter human settlements in search of food, increasing the possibility of a tiger-human conflict.

Sea levels rise and there is less fresh water

Earlier this year, a study modeled the area of ​​the Sundarbans that could continue to be suitable habitat for tigers as global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. It found that by 2070, the Bengal tiger could disappear from the Sundarbans as their habitats are completely destroyed by rising sea levels, more extreme weather, and increased salt in water and soil.

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Rising sea levels and decreasing rainfall have already increased the amount of salt in the water, killing the Sundri trees, from which the Sundarbans region gets its name, and reducing the habitat of the tiger mangrove swamp. according to Sharif Mukul, study co-author and assistant professor at the Independent University of Bangladesh.

Conflict with humans

As their supply of fresh water and food dwindles, Bengal tigers venture out of their habitat and closer to human settlements, sometimes resulting in deaths.

According to a 2013 study, at least three tigers die each year as a result of human-tiger conflict. An average of 20 to 30 people are reported to be killed by tigers each year in the Sundarbans of Bangladesh, but the number is likely to be higher as many attacks go unreported because they involve people who have entered the tiger habitat.

According to the RTI information, 88 human deaths, Maharashtra witnessed the worst human-animal conflict in 2020, indicating significant consequences for the economy, human health, safety and well-being, and the ecosystem. In 2017, 54 people were killed and the state paid Rs 4.32 million as compensation. By 2020, the figure had risen to 88 humans for whom the state government paid compensation of 12.75 million rupees.

These deaths include 32 in leopard attacks and 38 in tiger attacks. Most of the cases of tiger attacks occurred in the Chandrapur district. In the same period, there is also a drastic increase in livestock deaths from 5,961 in 2017 to 9,258 in 2020.

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