Saturday, June 20, 2015

Training stray dogs to protect villages from Tiger attacks in Sundarbans

Global Warming has led to an increase in tiger man conflict in the Sunderbans. Due to a 45 cm rise in the water, the salinity levels in the Sunderbans have increased drastically. This has forced the tiger to move towards the northern (more densely populated parts) of the Sunderbans resulting in an increase in tiger man conflict. There has been an increase in the attacks in the Sunderbans lately because of lack prey. Desperate villagers in turn, attack and kill the tigers.

Following the tragic news that three people were killed by tigers, conservationists from the Zoological Society of London came up with a project  to train stray dogs to keep the tiger at bay in the Sunderbans. For the first time, humans' canine companions are being used to help protect man from tigers, and therefore, tigers from man.

Field staff from ZSL working on tiger conservation and research in the Bangladesh Sundarbans had a tough job persuading the locals to protect endangered Bengal tigers, as they gained a formidable reputation as man-eaters.

The Sundarbans form the world's largest mangrove forest and are a UNESCO World Heritage site. The forests are dense and rich with wildlife, providing many resources for local communities - and they are also home to one of the largest surviving populations of wild tigers in the world. The tigers are the top predators of the forests, and ensuring their survival helps keep the wildlife of the forest in balance. 

Around 50 people are killed each year by the tigers of the forest, and most at risk are those who have to work in or close to the forests' borders. It is not completely understood why tigers become man-eaters but it is thought that some older, sick or injured tigers may find hunting humans easier than animal prey. The human-tiger conflict in the Sundarbans is escalating and despite tigers being legally protected since 1974, many are still being killed in response or anticipation of attacks. It is estimated that there are only 300-500 tigers left in the area. 

Conservationists Monirul Khan and Adam Barlow from ZSL have worked on various projects to conserve tigers. One of which is training the local stray street dogs to act as a deterrent for any prowling tigers that come too close to the village borders. By alerting the villagers to a tiger's presence, the animal can be frightened away instead of being hunted and killed. Although using dogs to protect humans from animal predators isn't a new idea, it is the first time they have been used in the battle to save tigers from extinction.

The following 48 minute BBC documentary – ‘Man-eating Tigers of the Sundarbans’ - explores the man-tiger relationship and efforts of the London Zoological Society in training stray dogs to protect villages from Tiger attacks.

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