The Sundarban mangrove forest in western Bangladesh is one of the last havens for the endangered Bengal tiger. With only 100 tigers thought to be remaining in the area, every individual tiger’s survival counts.
But the tigers aren’t the only ones that live there. They share the forest and its resources with over a million people in the surrounding villages – a human population that has doubled in size in the last 40 years.
And the locals’ relationship with the tigers has been hostile at best. The tigers kill or maim villagers and in retaliation the villagers hunt the tigers, causing a vicious cycle.
“We have 106, with the historical data about two to three tigers killed by the local villagers every year. But 30 to 50 humans are killed every year,” says conservationist Mahbub Alam.
A network of volunteers and conservationists are trying to prevent the killings and save the tiger by changing attitudes towards the big cat.
Part of their pioneering education programme is to train locals as “village tiger response teams” to scare off or tranquilise tigers that enter human communities, preventing them from the fate of being killed.
“Ten years ago, the tigers were actually beaten to death by the villagers,” says Alam. “We have been able to slowly motivate the local people. Motivate them that it cannot be killed … If they can save the tiger, the Sundarbans will be saved and their livelihood will be ensured … We have to keep the tiger alive.”
Source: Al Jazeera