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| Last Updated:: 20/02/2015

Sunderbans on the edge as tiger numbers rise


About a fortnight ago, when the nationwide tiger count was released, Sonoka Sarkar, 31, was trying to come to terms with her husband’s disappearance and death.


Srinivas Sarkar, 40, was dragged away by an adult tiger while he was catching crabs. The body could not be recovered, and Sonoka became another widow on the Sunderbans archipelago whose husband was devoured by a Royal Bengal Tiger.


“You may celebrate the rise in the number of tigers, I can’t,” says Sonaka. Many on Satjelia and surrounding islands are spending sleepless nights, fearing a rise in tiger attacks. West Bengal officials recently said the number of tigers has substantially increased, and there are over 100 in the Sunderbans.


Sonaka explains why such a rise in tiger population is ominous for people living on the archipelago. “I have lost my husband to a tiger. I do not know how many more will lose their lives, as the tiger numbers swell,” she said, sitting in her mud-and-thatch house.


Srinivas ’s brother Subhash says the pattern of life does not change on the island, and one dead man is replaced by another “who can walk.”


Binay Mondal, 66, has a different story. He single-handedly fought a tiger 19 years ago and survived. Mondal’s friend, who does not want to be quoted, reveals why a sexagenarian cannot disclose the most heroic story of his life. “Because here we fight not only the tigers but the police and conservationists who insist that killing, or even injuring, a tiger is a criminal offence.” “Fighting a tiger could be the subject of a film, but here if you touch one, you will end up in jail,” he says. “Tigers are more valuable than human beings in the Sunderbans,” the old man concludes.