Science And Technology Work Together To Save Wild Tigers In Sundarbans Wetlands

The battle to save the world’s wild tigers is increasingly turning to technology.

There are probably fewer than 5,000 tigers left in the wild and efforts to save them have been hampered by difficulties in tracking and counting them.

This is where technology and science are coming into play in the struggle to prevent extinction.

Timber Sample - Grey Mangrove, Avicennia marina, Victoria, 1885
Timber Sample – Grey Mangrove, Avicennia marina, Victoria, 1885 by Photographer: Jon Augier is licensed under CC-BY 4.0Mangrove is a hardy shrub that is salt water resistant. It grows in great quantity in the Sundarbans.

In the Sundarban National Park , a dense wetlands forest, cameras are being set up to monitor the tigers there.

According to the website:

“Sunderban is a vast area covering 4262 square kms in India alone, with a larger portion in Bangladesh. 2585 sq. kms of the Indian Sundarban forms the largest Tiger Reserve and National Park in India. The total area of the Indian part of the Sunderban forest, lying within the latitude between 21°13′-22°40′ North and longitude 88°05′-89°06′ East, is about 4,262 sq km, of which 2,125 sq km is occupied by mangrove forest across 56 islands and the balance is under water.”

A tiger in the water
Tigers are adept in the water. This makes the Sundarbans good habitat but the water may be too salty

It is the world’s largest river delta where the Padma, Brahmaputra and Meghna meet in the Bay of Bengal. The region is highly riverine with 17 rivers converging in the region in India and Bangladesh.

brown and black cat on brown wooden log
The fishing cat (prionailurus viverrinus) is a wild cat that specializes in catching fish. tPhoto by Barbora Vaštíková on

Tigers in the sundarbans have a reputation for aggressiveness and have been known to attack humans more frequently than other tigers. No one is sure why. There are two theories. One is that the water they drink is salty and it makes them irritable, The other is that urine marking and scats are washed away, They cannot define their territory and are therefore more aggressive to creatures entering it. Whatever the reason the estimated 500 tigers in the region attack up to 60 people annually killing about half of them.

But exactly how many tigers are in the area?

To find out, a network of 1,100 trails cameras is being set up. According to The Times of India the exact count is 1,146.

The tiger count is taken every four years and results are likely to be out in March. In accordance with developments in India’s conservation policy, other animals, including fishing cats, will be targeted in the survey. Fishing cats are adapted to catching fish underwater. They have slightly webbed paws and claws that protrude to help catch fish. They also have slightly rounded heads for diving.

Counting and protecting tigers in India has been a mixed success. In general numbers are up but whether that is at the expense of leopards and other endangered species is unclear.

India is home to 15 wild cats and many of those species are endangered.

Published by ursusrising

long time writer and editor living in Los Angeles

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