For the first time in the Sunderbans, forest department officials and wildlife experts are taking the help of satellites and radio signals to study tigers and assess the human-tiger conflict in the world’s largest mangrove delta, which has around 100 big cats.
A male tiger, that was captured and fitted with a satellite radio collar, was released back in the wild on Sunday, close to a human settlement in the Basirhat range of the Sunderban Tiger Reserve (STR). In the Sunderbans, where human settlements and tiger territories are separated just by a river in many places, tiger straying is common.
“Officials from the West Bengal government’s wildlife wing and experts from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) fitted a tiger with a collar and released it in the STR to assess human-tiger interactions through telemetry,” said a top forest department official, requesting anonymity.
The Sunderbans, located at the southern tip of West Bengal, account for the highest number of people killed by tigers in India. At least 62 people were killed in the state by tigers between 2015 and 2019 as per figures placed before the Lok Sabha on September 23. Maharashtra with 61 deaths was second.
“Incidents of tigers straying into the bordering villages have been brought down over the years by putting up nylon fences all along the forest boundary. But people are still attacked and often killed when they enter the forest to catch crabs, fishes and collect honey,” said a forest official.
Officials said that earlier, tigers were collared in the Sunderbans to collect data on their home range and territory. But this is the first time that the data will be used to assess the human-tiger conflict.
Forest officials said that three more tigers will be collared soon. The tigers’ movement patterns in the vicinity of human settlements will be studied over the next three years at least.
“The forest department has always prioritised scientific management of biodiversity in the Sunderban Biosphere Reserve. This initiative will help manage and safeguard the tigers,their habitat and human population as well as help understand the tigers’ behaviour and habitat utilisation patterns,” said VK Yadav, chief wildlife warden of the state.
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