Apr 25, 2019 08:48 AM EDT
Revered and Feared -- these are the two terms used to describe what Bengal tigers are to the rest of the species living in its community. The majestic Bengal Tigers as what people refer them to is one of the world's most iconic creatures of the wild.
Poaching is one of the reasons why these tigers have become rare in the wild, yet people often miss out that as they grow their population, they are also creeping into the habitat of these tigers. Researchers say that it may only take 50 years before these tigers completely disappear in one of the areas where it still has its strongholds. A huge forest mangrove called the Sundarbans, the area crossing two countries, India and Bangladesh, remains to be the only area in the world where these tigers grow wild and free.
Over the past years, the world has lost more than 90% of the tigers, leaving us with only 4,000 of them in the wild. Bengal tigers are popularly found in most countries in Asia while there are still a hundred or so of them that roams free in the Sundarbans.
With only 10,000 square kilometers in size, this low lying area is shrinking as the water levels rise due to climate change. Some parts of the island have become submerged faster than what the experts predicted.
Dipankar Ghose, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) director for its species and landscape program said that the number of Bengal tigers have become "dangerously low." "The escalating crisis on poaching as well as habitat degradation are just two of the reasons that make the survival of these majestic tigers challenging.
Early this year, a study conducted by Sharif Mukul and colleagues assessed how the Sundarbans is still the most suitable habitat for the tigers. The results of the study show that there might not be any Sundarbans to begin with by 2070 as it would be totally wiped out by the increasing water levels. The increase in salt levels in the water along with extreme weather conditions experienced in the area could only cause these tigers to be totally extinct.
"Freshwater sources are very important for the survival of these species in the wild," Mukul said. He is the co-author of the study as well as a professor at the Independent University of Bangladesh. "If the sea levels continue to rise, there might be no way for these Bengal tigers to ever survive the times," he added.
The study, however, does not include all the other factors that may bring these species into extinction. The impacts of a disease outbreak, prey reduction and continuous practices of poaching may all be making the situation much worse than what has been reported.
Conservation efforts have been launched to help these species of Bengal tigers survive the changing times. But if the abusive practices of poaching and global warming continues, no one can tell if the efforts would help them live into the future.
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