Sundarbans Tiger Reserve in the Bay of Bengal covers a total area of 10,000 sq kms. It is the largest mangrove forest in the world and an extremely important habitat for conservation of the 249 endangered Royal Bengal Tigers, crocodiles, monitor lizards, snakes, mud-skippers, and many other species.
Men are often attacked when they go inside the protected reserve forest areas for fishing in mangrove forest channels, collecting firewood, fruit, honey etc. They do not hunt tigers but come into contact with them. Our aim is to provide families with alternative incomes and livelihoods so that they can stay out of these hazardous areas.
The tigers are wonderful swimmers and it is reported that they come up onto the boats when the men are cooking in the evenings or when they are asleep. Tigers have been known to swim three miles at a stretch. They come to the villages in search of food and easy prey. They may kill a child. The people are absolutely powerless against these huge ferocious animals. They can be eight feet in length and extremely strong. If possible the tigers are captured by the forest officials. They are then tranquillised and re-located to the deep reserve core area.
Tigers often stalk a group of men as they go into the forest to search for food and firewood. They attack the strongest of the men first going straight for the neck. They may take a second and third victim also.
The widows and children are left to fend for themselves… to work in the tidal salt-water channels where Crocodiles often Attack leading to loss of limbs and/or death. The practice of dragging nets to collect prawn seeds earns them about 20c per day. Within a year of their husbands' death the family is destitute.
I have met plenty of men who've had encounters with the tigers but somebody else out of the group was taken instead. As one can imagine it is a terrifying experience. However, these poor families don't have much choice in the matter of means of survival. Many families are below poverty the line and have no land to grow vegetables or fruit and no resources for firewood - so they go to the forest only out of necessity. They realise that it is very dangerous but say they have little choice. Thankfully Self-Help-Groups can offer them that choice.
Their needs are simple - health, food and shelter.
Serving the People to Save the Tiger