Climate change to hit Sundarbans tigers hard

Bengal Tigers, one of the critically endangered species, face extinction as their habitats in the Sundarbans are going to be severely affected due to the growing extreme climate events and sea-level rise, warned biological scientists.

“Of course, Bengal Tigers living in the Sundarbans will be hit hard due to the climate change,” Dr John Seidensticker, the head of Conservation Ecology Centre at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, USA, told UNB.

tigerHe said, “First of all, you know what is happening in a very dynamic area like the Sundarbans. Water is rising there whereas the soil of mangrove forest is dynamic. Its soil is not like hill soil. It’s very dynamic system.”

Dr Seidensticker said the coastal area is protected by embankments and dams from the tide and there are lots of challenges persisting in the region.

He said if salinity intrusion rises in the Sundarbans, the ecosystem of the mangrove forest will be affected welcoming a change in food chain which may seriously cast impacts on the tiger population.

Tigers (Panthera tigris), the Asia’s most iconic animals, and the largest cats of all are majestic symbols in many ancient and modern cultures are recognised by various civil society, and governments as being important to save from extinction.

Andrey V Kushlin, programme manger of World Bank’s Global Tiger Initiative, said the Sundarbans ecosystem is the best elastration of the interrelationship between the climate change issues and the biodiversity conservation issues.

“There is the rising sea-level (on one hand) and the increasing monsoon activities are directly impacting the critical habitats of the endangered tiger species (on the other),” he added.

Kushlin said the solution to climate change is linked directly with the solution to biodiversity issues as the climate change issues are impacting the tiger habitats.

There is only 4,147 tiger population around the world now with 440 being in Bangladesh, government officials here said.

According to the Saint Petersburg Declaration on Tiger Conservation, the 13 tiger range countries are committed to striving to double the number of wild tigers across their range by 2022 by doing everything possible to effectively manage, preserve, protect, and enhance habitats.

But, scientists think that it is quite impossible to increase tiger population in the Sundarbans into double by 2022 in a limited forest area, only 6,017 square kilometers. So, the Bangladesh government has taken initiatives to ensure statuesque of tiger population in the forest.

Apart from the climate change issues, Andrey V Kushlin said the economic activities surrounding the Sundarbans are putting direct and induced impacts on the tiger habitats.

“So, first you’ll have to ensure a safe haven for the tigers. As you do so keeping the economic activities away from the safe distance of tiger habitats, then you’ll be able to engage the global community on how to find a joint solution that can address climate and biodiversity issues in the Sundarbans,” he said.

The World Bank official stressed the need for conducting studies on the economic activities and hydrological changes being occurred in the Sundarbans to identity the risk factors that pose threat to tigers and other wildlife of the mangrove forest.

Tiger is an umbrella species and its conservation automatically ensures the conservation of large number of flora and fauna, including their ecosystems. Wild tigers are not only a symbol of all that is splendid, mystical and powerful about nature but also a beacon of biodiversity, linking together the forests they inhabit and the natural resources and ecosystem services that their habitats produce for people.

Sadly, the next decade may be the last one for the wild tiger. The loss of tigers and degradation of their ecosystems would inevitably result in a historic cultural, spiritual and environmental catastrophe for the Tiger Range Countries.

  • UNB