Sundarbans tigers unlikely victims of cyclone Aila

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Port Canning (West Bengal), May 28 (ANI): Cyclone Aila that originated over the Bay of Bengal on Monday and caused havoc in many parts of West Bengal and Bangladesh might not have harmed the Royal Bengal tigers of Sundarbans in West Bengal.

In Sundarbans, heavy downpour raised river levels while the gushing waters of flooded mangroves burst mud embankments in the extensive delta region, destroying hundreds of thousands of houses.

The Sunderbans mangrove forest area, home to the highly endangered Royal Bengal tiger, has been fully inundated and high-speed winds have destroyed all communication and transportation infrastructure.

Reviewing the situation, two days after the cyclone devastation, Naveen Chandra Bahuguna, Chief Conservator of Forests, West Bengal and Director, Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve said that although much damage has been done, there are fairly good chances that tigers would survive.

"There was lot of damage. But tiger is a very strong animal.

These natural conditions generally don't affect tigers. In Sundarbans, they can swim long distances. So even if water is submerged everywhere tiger can come to bank and some other area. The only problem is that they may lose bearing. If they don't know in which direction they have to move then they may die due exhaustion," said Bahuguna.

He also mentioned that one tiger ventured into human habitat at Jameswar village on Tuesday, was tranquillised and taken into custody later.

The entire Sunderbans biosphere reserve area of 9600 square kilometres has suffered extensive damage under the impact of cyclone Aila.

The Sundarbans, a 26,000 sq km area of low-lying swamps on India's border with Bangladesh, is dotted with hundreds of small islands criss-crossed by water channels.

Once home to 500 tigers until the late 1960s, the Sundarbans today may boast of just 250 to 270 tigers whereas the Indian Statistical Institute has computed the census to be as low as 75.

There were about 40,000 tigers in India a century ago. A government census report published in 2008 says the tiger population has fallen to 1,411, down from 3,642 in 2002, largely due to dwindling habitat and poaching. (ANI)

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