The serene, scenic beauty of the Sunder Bans, the largest unbroken mangrove forest in the world, a UNESCO declared World Heritage Site, cannot be explained in mere words. Only those who have set foot on its shores can testify to that. This large collection of densely forested islands is situated where the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal. A collection of hundreds of islands crisscrossed by rivers, streams and small canals, the mangrove covers over 10,000 square kms with more than 6000 square kms falling within Bangladesh’s territory and the rest in India.
This is the last sanctuary that 300 to 500 of the worlds remaining 3000 or so wild tigers, call home. ” The Royal Bengal Tigers” or “Swamp Tigers” as they have been so candidly named are possibly the smallest subspecies of Tiger on the planet but what they lack in size, is more than made up for in terms of aggression and fierce reputation.
Even if one has traversed the Tiger terrains of India, Russia and other Asian countries, nothing will prepare you for the sunder bans. Everywhere the forest is so dense that it’s hard to see more than a few feet. Everyday the forest floods at high tide and everything becomes engulfed by the sea. This water leaves nothing but soggy, sticky mud in its wake. As if all these were not enough the ground is covered with million of mangrove roots that spring out of the earth, like pointed spikes. Now you can just imagine that in such a terrain, where one would be preoccupied in just finding their footing, unnoticed a Tiger may silently lurk, just a few feet away, savoring the meal to come.
Despite living on their door step very few people have ever seen a wild Tiger and of those that have, fewer have survived to tell its tale. Although these poor people try to protect themselves as best they can, their different endeavors to earn an income from the forest resources results on average between a 100 to 250 human deaths a year from Tiger attacks.
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