Probable reason of Tiger Straying:
The probable reasons of straying of tigers in villages and its application on the Sunderbans are discussed below:
(i) Scarcity of prey animal is not the cause for tiger straying in the villages:
The main prey animal of tigers in Sunderbans are Chital Deer and Wild boar. Among the
other prey animals there are Rhesus monkeys, water monitors and even fish and crabs. Although no proper prey-base study has been done in this project since it was not included in TOR, yet during the field trips the field personnel noted a good number of boars, Chitals, monkeys and monitors. Moreover according to the information collected from the local villagers, and the Forest Department it does not seem that there is any scarcity of prey animals in the Sunderbans. Therefore, the reason of the tiger straying due to scarcity of prey animals does not stand for the Sunderbans.
(ii) Proximity of human habitation to the tiger habitat:
In some areas of Sunderbans human habitation and tiger habitat are divided by very narrow creeks. The cow sheds are situated almost at the fringe of the villages and on the banks of the narrow creeks. Generally catching of prey in the Sunderbans is quite difficult for the tigers due to the geomorphologic conditions. Sometimes the tigers stray inside the villages in search easy prey like cattle.
This possibility is applicable to the places like Kalitala and Kumirmari villages where villages and tiger habitat are divided by narrow canals like ‘Shakuni Khal’ and ‘Bagna Khal’.
iii) Tigers do not stray in the village to kill easy prey like human:
Although the Sunderbans bear the bad name of ‘the land of man-eating tigers’, yet the view that tigers stray in the villages of the Sunderbans to kill human being is totally wrong. Among the 94 cases recorded till 1995, there were only four cases where the tiger had killed a human being. From 1997 to 2005 there are is only one such case. All these incidents took place between January and February 1990 at Samsernagar. It indicates that it was the same tiger was responsible for all these human killing. Man eating takes place in the forest and the victims are fishermen, honey collectors and wood cutters.
(iv) Embankment protection mangrove strips of the villages are confused by the tigers as their own habitat:
In the fringes of some villages embankment protection mangrove strips have been developed. Tigers sometimes confuse those mangrove strips with their own habitat. Thus tiger straying may take place due to this reason.
(v) Littering female strays in the paddy field to protect her cubs:
Female tigers have also been reported to stray into the paddy fields around the villages during littering season apparently to protect the newborn cubs from the aberrant behaviour of the males.
(vi) Confusion with paddy field with Porteresia coarctata:
During the late monsoon or post-monsoon when paddy in the field around these villages ripe, the migratory tiger naturally gets confused as to whether there is a forest on the other side of the creek or not. To add to its confusion, the ripped paddy looks somewhat similar to Porteresia coarctata, commonly which is known as “shali ghas”.
(vii) Generally old tigers stray for easy prey:
Partly it may be true that old tigers may stray in the villages for easy prey like cattle or stray dogs, but this is not the major cause of straying.
(viii) Straying due to washing out of pheromone by tidal waves:
Every day the Sunderbans witness high tide and low tide twice. Pheromone sprayed by tigers on the tree trunks to mark its territories are washed out by the tidal waves everyday and tigers get confused and stray inside the human habitation.
ix) The male tiger losing domain to the aggressive male tiger may stray:
This may be the one of many reasons.
After examining the whole situation, it is suggested that two way measures are to be adopted. One, is to develop a positive approach among the villagers towards the Project Tiger which will ultimate reduce the animosity of villagers with the tigers of the Sunderbans ultimately. For this, different eco-development activities have to be encouraged, living conditions have to be improved and the villagers should be made to understand that their own survival is depending on the survival of the Sunderbans as well as tigers. On the other hand, some other measures may be adopted to curb tiger straying incidents is the villages of Sunderbans.
To improve the relationship between the villagers and the forest department these following measures may be suggested:
The members of local club/Panchayet of the affected villages should be trained in tranquilizing the tiger.
Moreover the members of local club can easily mobilise the aggressive mob if they can tranquilize the tiger in the locality.
Alternative income generating sources should be developing to reduce biotic interference on forest and improve economic conditions.
Villagers of different islands of the Sunderban should be encouraged to set up NGOs with local people. It will be easier for these local NGOs to make the people understand about the importance of conservation of Sunderbans as well as tigers. Moreover, they may act as a bridge between villagers and Project Tiger.
Many villages are situated in the remote corners of the Sunderbans. Sometimes that becomes fatal for the patients attacked by acute diseases. Therefore, health care centres are to be set up in the remote corners of Sunderbans. Moreover, a mobile medical unit should be set up in a launch to provide medical benefit to the remote villagers.
Measures should be adopted to curb tiger straying incidents are as follows:
Closely spaced solar lights should be installed.
The cow-sheds should be well-protected by Goran stick fences and bamboo, so that, it cannot be broken easily.
The suggested nets made up of nylon rope, on the river banks along the forests which are located opposite to human habitation, had been implemented by the forest department. These nets should be monitored & repaired on regular basis.
Apart from the measures mentioned above following works should also be taken into consideration:
1. Construction of good roads & maintenance of river embankments.
2. A thorough prey-base study has to be implemented.