Big cats threatened by climate change: 'Scuba gear' needed
Jan 20, 2010
One of the world's largest tiger populations could disappear by the end of this century as rising sea levels caused by climate change destroy their habitat along the coast of Bangladesh in an area known as the Sundarbans, according to a new World Wildlife Fund-led study published in the journal "Climatic Change."
Tigers are among the world's most threatened species, with only an estimated 3,200 remaining in the wild. WWF officials said the threats facing these Bengal tigers and other iconic species around the world highlight the need for urgent international action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"If we don't take steps to address the impacts of climate change on the Sundarbans, the only way its tigers will survive this century is with scuba gear," said Colby Loucks, WWF's deputy director of conservation science and the lead author of the study Sea Level Rise and Tigers: Predicted Impacts to Bangladesh's Sundarbans Mangroves. "Tigers are a highly adaptable species, thriving from the snowy forests of Russia to the tropical forests of Indonesia. The projected sea level rise in the Sundarbans will likely outpace the tiger's ability to adapt."
According to the study, an expected sea level rise of 11 inches above 2000 levels may cause the remaining tiger habitat in the Sundarbans to decline by 96 percent, pushing the total population to fewer than 20 breeding tigers. Unless immediate action is taken, the Sundarbans, its wildlife and the natural resources that sustain millions of people may disappear within 50 to 90 years, the study said.