Monday, 6 February, 2023
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An unseen presence: Fear of tiger attack grips 6 villages along Sundarbans

Tigers entered locality more than 50 times in 15 years

The residents of six villages near the Sundarbans are literally living in fear for their lives as a hundred footprints of two tigers were spotted in Sonatala village of Bagerhat’s Sharonkhola.

Two tigers left the Sundarbans and crossed the Bhola river and entered the village early hours of Thursday (January 12) and roamed over an area of about one kilometer of Sonatala village, said Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Sundarbans East Division Muhammad Belayet Hossain.

Later, the forest department, Village Tiger Response Team (VTRT), Community Patrolling Group (CPG) and villagers searched various areas throughout the day in search of the tigers. However, no tiger was found in that village till Thursday evening, he added.

The two tigers went back to the forest after roaming different places in that village, claimed the Forest Department after tracing all the footprints the tigers left on the ground. However, villagers were advised to stay on alert, and have just spent an anxious weekend remaining vigilant.

With this, tigers have left the Sundarbans and entered the locality more than 50 times in the last 15 years. During this time, both man and tiger have lost their lives due to counter-attacks.

Villagers demanded effective measures to prevent tigers from entering the locality.

Harun Bhadda of Sonatala village said that he woke up early in the morning and saw hundreds of the unmistakable imprints of the tiger's paw around his house. Ever since seeing them, his entire family has been gripped by fear of tigers.

In Sonatala village, the Bhola River has almost filled up with silt and has only two to two-and-a-half feet of water. In the Tajur Gate area under the Bhola camp of the Sharonkhola range of the Sundarbans East Division, countless tiger footprints were spotted on the river bed.

Hundreds of small and large tiger footprints were also spotted in various areas including Harun Bhadda and Abul Hossain’s houses along the river, crop fields and muddy roads.

There are parts of the Sundarbans in the locality along the river. From Khuriakhali to Sonatala, the forest covers about 6 km in the locality.

As the two tigers entered the locality, the villagers of Sonatala, Bakultala, North Tafalbari, Rasulpur and Rajapur expressed the fear of the tiger among them.

When asked why tigers entered the locality, DFO Belayet said tigers roam in their home range in the Sundarbans. Perhaps the two tigers crossed the Bhola River and entered the locality.

Even in different areas of the Sundarbans, tigers are seen roaming more than before, he said. They believe that the number of tigers in the Sundarbans has increased.

However, some villagers claimed that many times wild animals including tigers, deers leave the Sundarbans and enter the locality due to the activities of poachers in the forest.

Currently, more than half of the total area of the Sundarbans is reserved forest. And the Royal Bengal Tiger is more or less roaming the entire Sundarbans.

The tigers are under threat here now due to poaching activities, climate change and increasing salinity.

In the last fiscal year 2017-18, the number of tigers in the Sundarbans Bangladesh part was determined to be 114 through camera trapping. Tiger counting is going on in the Sundarbans through camera trapping to determine the latest population of tigers.

According to the information from the Forest Department, from 2001 to 2022, 28 tigers died in various ways in the Sundarbans East Division. Of these, 14 were killed by miscreants, five by mob lynching, eight natural deaths and one in Cyclone Sidr. Besides, 19 hides of tigers were recovered.