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Study: Climate change may destroy Sundarbans’ tigers in 50yrs

  • Published at 03:07 pm February 14th, 2019
Web- Royal bengal tiger
File photo of a Royal Bengal Tiger Syed Zakir Hossain/ Dhaka Tribune

The study was carried out by a team of Bangladeshi and Australian scientists

A new study has warned that the Royal Bengal Tigers—on the Bangladeshi side of the Sundarbans—could be extinct within 50 years; because of the constant rise in sea levels, and climate change.

The study titled “Combined Effects of Climate Change and Sea-Level Rise Project Dramatic Habitat Loss of the Globally-Endangered Bengal Tiger in the Bangladesh Sundarbans,” revealed that the constant rise in sea levels—and climate change—could bring a catastrophic situation to the mangroves of the Sundarbans; the iconic Bengal tiger's last coastal stronghold and the world's biggest mangrove forest.

The study, carried out by a team of Bangladeshi and Australian scientists, was published in the journal Science of The Total Environment.

"Fewer than 4,000 Bengal tigers are alive today," said James Cook University's Professor Bill Laurance, a co-author of the study. 

He said: "That is 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.”

"Spanning more than 10,000 square kilometres, the Sundarbans region of Bangladesh and India is the biggest mangrove forest on Earth, and also the most critical area for Bengal tiger survival," lead-author Dr Sharif Mukul, an assistant professor at Independent University Bangladesh, said.

Dr Sharif said: "What is most terrifying is that our analyses suggest tiger habitats in the Sundarbans will vanish entirely by 2070.”

The researchers used computer simulations to assess the future suitability of the low-lying Sundarban region for tigers and their prey species; using mainstream estimates of climatic trends from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Their analyses included factors such as extreme weather events and sea-level rise.

"Beyond climate change, the Sundarbans are under growing pressure from industrial development, new roads, and greater poaching," said Professor 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.

However, the researchers emphasize there is still hope. "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 Professor Laurance.

"Our analyses are a preliminary picture of what could happen if we do not start to look after Bengal tigers and their critical habitats," Dr Sharif said.

"There is no other place like the Sundarbans left on Earth," said Professor Laurance. "We have to look after this iconic ecosystem if we want amazing animals like the Bengal tiger to have a chance of survival," he added.