We think of the Sundarbans, the world’s biggest mangrove forest, and we think of the Royal Bengal Tiger. However, the fierce species which is India’s pride could die out thanks to climate change as the Sundarbans will be completely wiped out within the next 50 years with the rising water levels. Spanning more than 10,000 square kilometres, the Sundarbans are the Bengal tiger’s last coastal stronghold.
The Sundarbans take up part of both India and Bangladesh and is a critical habitat for the endangered Royal Bengal or simply Bengal or Indian tiger according to researchers.
“Fewer than 4,000 Bengal tigers are alive today,” said Bill Laurance, a professor at the James Cook University in Australia, according to Press Trust of India (PTI).
“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 added.
“What is most terrifying is that our analyses suggest tiger habitats in the Sundarbans will vanish entirely by 2070,” said Sharif Mukul, an assistant professor at Independent University Bangladesh.
How did scientists figure out the estimated date when the Sundarbans will vanish?
The researchers used computer simulations to understand the time left for the Sundarban region before submerging underwater and how possible it was for tigers and prey species to survive there.
The simulation used mainstream estimates of climatic trends from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and also included factors such as extreme weather events and sea-level rise.
Why are tigers going extinct?
The reasons behind so many species of tigers dying out are:
- Habitat loss
- Effects of climate change
- Drastic reduction in breeding among different tiger populations as per genomic evidence “Beyond climate change, the Sundarbans are under growing pressure from industrial developments, new roads, and greater poaching,” said 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.
Do we have any hope of saving the Sundarbans?
Researchers say that though the situation is dire, the world’s largest mangrove forest could still be protected enough to deal with the onslaught of climate change.
“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 Laurance, according to PTI.
“There is no other place like the Sundarbans left on Earth. We have to look after this iconic ecosystem if we want amazing animals like the Bengal tiger to have a chance of survival,” he said. (PTI / India Today)