Friday, October 4, 2013

Starved Man-eaters of Sunderbans

A glance at the material excavated at Mohenjo Daro and Harrapa indicates that has been hunting tigers for the past 5000 years. The tiger started avoiding confrontation with humans ever since he developed the technique of hunting with spears.

According to the available evidence of the past, man-eating tigers used to establish a reign of terror over a number of villages. In the district of Mandla alone, more than 200 people were killed by tigers in 1856 and, according to an official record; tigers had taken a toll of 1,046 human lives in 1902. The number of tigers killed by man in the past is also starling. Even today when the tiger is under great stress and when man possesses a spectacular killing power with his modern weapons, still people fall prey to tigers every year. I’m going to tell you about a forest/national park/World Heritage Site where people are scared more than anything else than tigers.

Introduction to Sunderbans

The Sunderbans comprises 10,000 squarew kilometers of mangrove swamps sprawling across the delta of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, of this, 6,000 square kilometers fall in Bangladesh.

The northern part of the Sunderbans in Bangladesh gets flooded only when there is a high tide during a cyclone. Although this region has some habitation, the rest of Sunderbans is mostly inhabited. Yet, because of the daily traffic of thousands of boats and dugouts plying between the Bay of Bengal and the villages on the mainland, there is a high incidence of man-eating.

The boats transport timber, leaves and honey. Wood cutters cut Sundari trees (Heritiera minor) used for house-building and transport the timber and firewood to the mainland. Now, after the site is awarded as a World Heritage Sites, things like poaching and random cutting of trees has been greatly reduced.

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It is extremely easy for a tiger to kill any person preoccupied with his own work in the dense labyrinth of the undergrowth tigers here are too bold to hesitate in lifting a person sleeping in a dugout. Every fisherman talks of such incidents so casually as if there was nothing unusual about them.

Why do tigers in Sunderbans eat man?

Dr. Herbert Hendricks, German Scientist, carried a research on this subject. He had examined the internal organs of all man-eaters shot in Sunderbans. Preliminary studies revealed the scarcity of fresh-water sources in Sunderbans forced tigers to take water from tidal creeks.

The ingested salt affects the liver and kidneys of the tiger. This is probable cause of making the Sunderbans tigers relish human flesh. The chital is the main food of the tiger in Sunderbans, but the chital population there is not large enough to sustain the tiger population all the year round. Tigers also eat wild boars, but their numbers too are limited. Due to paucity of large animals tigers prey on monkeys and other small animals. They have adapted themselves to live on smaller preys. Such as monitor, lizards, crab and fish. Even the saltwater crocodiles found in the Sunderbans are not spared.

Poor Royal Bengal Tiger!

The Sunderban tigers are called “Royal Bengal Tiger”, though the title Royal seems misnomer because there is nothing royal about it. It would be more apt if the appellation was given to the tiger in the Himalayan region where the animal is more handsome and large in size. It has also a brighter coat. The Sunderbans tiger is of a weaker constitution because of the inadequate nourishment it gets from its food.
fishermen in sunderbans, west bengal, india travel
Fishermen in Sunderbans
The physical development of other species of animals that are usually found in fresh-water areas is also quite poor in this region. The antlers of the chital do not attain a good size. They mate in May-June and start shedding their antlers thereafter. The mangrove forests provide the chital with an advantage that the tigers do not enjoy. The chital can easily run over the ground littered with the stumps of these trees but the tiger finds it difficult to follow because of its broad, fleshy and heavy paws.

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