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Bengal tigers preserve Sundarbans mangrove forest

15 May 2015


"Vital": a Sundarban tiger 

"Vital": a Sundarban tiger 

BENGAL tigers in parts of India and Bangladesh are playing a crucial part in halting climate change and protecting the population, conservationists say.

The tigers, an endangered species, kill about 50 people a year in the Sundarbans mangrove forest in Bengal - one of the largest such forests in the world. But without the tigers, conservationists say, the forest would soon disappear at the hands of humans, leaving the low-lying area even more vulnerable to flooding and storm surges.

A few hundred tigers are thought to live in the Sundarbans, and they strike as people go into the forest for honey, or to collect wood, or while they are out fishing. A conservationist from the Society of Heritage and Ecological Research in Kolkata, Joydip Kundu, said that the tigers played a vital part in the protection of the mangroves. "It is fear of the tigers that keeps people out of the forest. The moment you take the tiger out of the landscape, the entire ecosystem will vanish. The tiger is protecting the mangrove ecosystem, and it is because of the mangrove that the entire south of Bengal is safe," he said.

Christian Aid has made a film, The Tiger, the Fisherman, his Wife, and Our Future, to highlight the link between preserving the tiger population and halting climate change in the region. It features the experiences of people who have survived tiger attacks, and also women whose husbands have been killed by the animal. One of them, Minati Roy, said that she understood the importance of the tiger. "The tigers are protecting the forest. If there were no forests, no trees, there would be no life," she said.

Over the past 30 years, the Sundarbans region has lost more than 100 square kilometres of land to the rising sea - an area equivalent in size to Manchester. The region is experiencing relative sea-level rise at twice the global average. Scientists predict that much of the Sundarbans will be under water by the end of the century, and that this would lead to mass migration.

The Christian Aid film was created to highlight Christian Aid's campaign One Million Ways, which encourages people to share the ways in which they are helping to tackle climate change.


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