AboutZoos, Since 2008


Dis­ap­pear­ing Sun­dar­bans man­grove forests, a threat to tigers

pub­lished 12 Jan­u­ary 2013 | mod­i­fied 12 Jan­u­ary 2013

Sun SunderbansMan­grove forests of the Sun­dar­bans are dis­ap­pear­ing, tak­ing endan­gered species like the Ben­gal tiger with them.

Rapid dete­ri­o­ra­tion in man­grove health is occur­ring in the Sun­dar­bans, result­ing in as much as 200m of coast dis­ap­pear­ing in a sin­gle year.

A report pub­lished Jan­u­ary 11 in the open access jour­nal Remote Sens­ing by sci­en­tists from the Zoo­log­i­cal Soci­ety of Lon­don (ZSL) states that as human devel­op­ment thrives, and global tem­per­a­ture con­tin­ues to rise, nat­ural pro­tec­tion from tidal waves and cyclones is being degraded at alarm­ing rates. This will inevitably lead to species loss in this richly bio­di­verse part of the world, if noth­ing is done to stop it.

ZSL’s Dr Nathalie Pet­torelli, senior author of the paper says: “Our results indi­cate a rapidly retreat­ing coast­line that can­not be accounted for by the reg­u­lar dynam­ics of the Sun­dar­bans. Degra­da­tion is hap­pen­ing fast, weak­en­ing this nat­ural shield for India and Bangladesh.”

The Sun­dar­bans is a crit­i­cal tiger habi­tat; one of only a hand­ful of remain­ing forests big enough to hold sev­eral hun­dred tigers. To lose the Sun­dar­bans would be to move a step closer to the extinc­tion of these majes­tic animals.
Sarah Christie, ZSL’s tiger con­ser­va­tion expert »

The name ‘Sun­dar­ban’ can be lit­er­ally trans­lated as ‘beau­ti­ful for­est’ in the Ben­gali lan­guage. The area is is the largest block of con­tin­u­ous man­grove for­est in the world, being home to almost 500 species of rep­tile, fish, bird and mam­mals, includ­ing the endan­gered Ben­gal tiger.

ZSL as a part­ner, together with for instance the Bangladesh For­est Depart­ment, is involved in WILDTEAM, a non-​profit organ­i­sa­tion that is try­ing to achieve a bet­ter future by ‘chang­ing the game of nature’. WILDTEAM began as the Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh which had a flag­ship ini­tia­tive called The Sun­dar­bans Tiger Project, now called the TigerTeam. Another ini­tia­tive to achieve long-​term con­ser­va­tion of tigers in Bangladesh has been the devel­op­ment of the Bangladesh Tiger Action Plan 20092017 by the Bangladesh For­est Depart­ment, and co-​authored by ZSL’s Christina Green­wood, Adam Bar­low and Monirul Khan.

Although man­groves are rare, they are an impor­tant bar­rier against cli­mate change, pro­vid­ing pro­tec­tion to coastal areas from tsunamis and cyclones. They are also the most car­bon rich forests in the trop­ics with high car­bon seques­tra­tion poten­tial, mean­ing their degra­da­tion and loss sub­stan­tially reduce our abil­ity to mit­i­gate, and adapt to, pre­dicted changes in cli­matic con­di­tions.

Man­groves com­prise less than 1 per cent of all for­est areas across the world, amount­ing to roughly half the size of the UK. It is essen­tial that the pro­tec­tion of man­groves becomes a pri­or­ity, par­tic­u­larly for the charis­matic species which will dis­ap­pear with them if no action is taken to pre­serve their habi­tat.

ZSL’s Chief Man­grove Sci­en­tific Advi­sor Jur­genne Pri­mav­era says: “Man­grove pro­tec­tion is urgent given the con­tin­u­ing threats to the world’s remain­ing 14 to 15 mil­lion hectares of man­groves from aqua­cul­ture, land devel­op­ment and over-​exploitation. The recently estab­lished IUCN SSC Man­grove Spe­cial­ist Group, hosted by ZSL, will develop a global con­ser­va­tion strat­egy for man­groves based on an assess­ment of research and con­ser­va­tion needs.”

The above news item is reprinted from mate­ri­als avail­able at Zoo­log­i­cal Soci­ety Lon­don. Orig­i­nal text may be edited for con­tent and length.
(Source: ZSL News, 11.01.2013)

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Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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