With 300 - 500 tigers, and millions of people surviving on its periphery, more people are killed in the Bangladesh Sundarbans than anywhere else on the planet. The loss of human life, and the subsequent retaliatory killing of tigers, is a real threat to the future of one of the last remaining strongholds of tigers. A troubling statistic when you consider that there are just over 3,000 wild tigers remaining in the world. Without intervention, this human and tiger conflict will continue in ever decreasing circles: it will result in the extinction of the tiger; which in turn will lead to the deterioration of the Sundarbans ecosystem; which in turn threatens the livelihoods of impoverished communities reliant on the forest resources - food, shelter, fuel - for their daily survival.
This SOS - Save Our Species funded project, implemented by the Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh (WTB), directly addresses human and tiger conflict by ensuring less people are killed by tigers, alternative solutions to killing tigers out of fear are provided, and the law against tiger killing is effective and widely understood.
Reducing the loss of human life: The project will help communities live safely alongside a tiger forest. Currently villagers enter the forest without being aware of basic safety measures such as working in a team rather than alone, knowing the fresh sign of a tiger, or understanding the danger call of deer. The project will work with 4000 forest users, together with an expanded network of local community groups known as Village Tiger Response Teams (VTRTs), to provide training and develop forest safety skills, significantly reducing the loss of human life. The project will also develop a boat-based team, always on call in conflict hotspots, to react to incidents with first aid and other support.
Providing alternative solutions to retaliatory tiger killing: The project will create 20 new Village Tiger Response Teams (VTRTs), a network of local volunteers trained to quickly deal with tiger incidents, which has already had considerable success in the Sundarbans over the last 2 years. They will be trained to quickly call the project's boat based teams that have the equipment to tranquilize and release stray tigers back to the forest; and know how to deal with large communities intent on killing tigers out of fear. The additional 20 teams will ensure over 60% of the conflict area is covered, increasing the response time and effectiveness to tiger incidents.
Increasing support for law enforcement: To compliment these approaches, the project will ensure communities are more aware of the law against killing tigers. This project will work to both support law enforcement agencies responsible for arresting and convicting people committing wildlife crime; and work with local, national and international media to publicize successful convictions to reinforce legal consequences.
These three components compliment each other to provide a holistic and sustainable solution to human and tiger conflict, and help significantly shift the attitudes - and ultimately behavior - of people killing tigers in the Bangladesh Sundarbans. It forms the first phase of a five-year project to reduce human and tiger conflict by 70%: a vital objective in the race to secure the tigers future.