Frequent tiger, crocodile attacks in Sundarbans villages
27 Oct 2009, 1808 hrs IST, PTI
JAMESPUR (Sundarbans): Sheba Mridha sobs uncontrollably as she looks at the thick mangrove forest on the other bank of Ganral river at Gosaba delta in Sundarbans.
She was widowed a couple of months ago when a Royal Bengal Tiger killed her husband Ramesh Mridha (32) as he was catching crabs in the creeks of Sundarbans Tiger Reserve, off the limit area for villagers.
Incidents of tiger, crocodile and shark attacks are occuring with more people scouring the jungle for livelihood after a year of crop failure following sea surge by cyclone Aila in this part of South 24-parganas district in West Bengal.
"Only widows would be left to live in the villages," Sheba says, sitting at her tarpaulin shed home with two minor sons.
Almost every household in Jamespur and Annpur villages of Sundarbans has lost one member to tiger, crocodile or shark attacks.
Ramesh is one of the hundreds of delta-dwellers who are preyed upon by wild animals regularly.
"Ten persons died of tiger attacks this year. More than 20 incidents of tiger straying into human-inhabited deltas have happened since cyclone on May 25," Field director of Sundarban Tiger Reserve, Subrat Mukherjee said.
Tigers pounce on fishermen catching fish, crab or villagers collecting honey, firewood in the mangrove jungle which is home to the largest number of tigers in the world.
Estuarine crocodiles prey on the villagers when catching shrimp seeds in the tidal rivers and sharks cut limbs to bleed people to death.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in a survey in 2006 found 30 persons died of crocodile attacks in three months near Bhagabatpur crocodile sanctuary in Pathar Pratima delta, Saswati Sen of WWF says.
Meanwhile, Field Director Mukherjee says more people die of snake bites in the deltas with improper healthcare facilities.
People often become victims of wild animal attack which the residents of the car-free deltas of Sundarbans refer to as "accidents".
"An average four persons die of 'accidents' every month. The number is apprehended to increase as more villagers are now venturing in the forest," says Dilip Mondal, a resident of Annpur, whose uncle was killed when fishing in the tiger reserve.
"The villages were once emptied of males when farm yield was low and people would depend on the forest to feed families," he says.
Meanwhile, Prof Ranjan Chakrabarti, environmental historian of Sundarbans in Jadavpur University says the fears of more wildlife attack were logical.