scorecardCyclone Remal devastates major Bengal tiger habitat in Sunderbans; 100 freshwater ponds washed away
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Cyclone Remal devastates major Bengal tiger habitat in Sunderbans; 100 freshwater ponds washed away

Cyclone Remal devastates major Bengal tiger habitat in Sunderbans; 100 freshwater ponds washed away
IndiaIndia2 min read
Bangladesh's treasured Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest and home to one of the largest populations of endangered Bengal tigers, has been significantly impacted by Cyclone Remal. The cyclone, which struck the low-lying regions of Bangladesh and India on Sunday evening, has resulted in unprecedented flooding, endangering the unique ecosystem and its wildlife.

Cyclone Remal, one of the longest cyclones in Bangladesh's recorded history, caused severe destruction. The cyclone's path left 38 people dead and affected millions in Bangladesh and India, forcing over a million people to seek refuge in concrete storm shelters. However, the Sundarbans bore the brunt of the storm's ferocity.
Entire drinking ponds lost
Mihir Kumar Doe, the head of Bangladesh's southern forest department, highlighted the extent of the flooding, noting that the entire forest remained submerged for over 36 hours. "All its freshwater ponds, numbering more than 100, were washed away by saline tidal water," Doe stated. This loss of freshwater resources is critical for the forest's wildlife, including the endangered Bengal tigers.

The Sundarbans is not only a sanctuary for Bengal tigers but also a dynamic ecosystem supporting a variety of species. Abu Naser Mohsin Hossain, the senior forest official for the Sundarbans, expressed grave concerns about the impact of saline water on the wildlife. "We are worried," Hossain said. "These ponds were the source of fresh water for the entire wildlife in the mangroves — including the endangered Bengal tigers."

The storm's aftermath has already seen the recovery of dozens of dead spotted deer and boars, the primary prey for the tigers. The prolonged inundation and saline intrusion pose a severe threat to these animals, with smaller, less robust species like the spotted deer being particularly vulnerable.
Long-term ecological concerns
The Sundarbans regularly endures intense monsoon storms, but the scale and duration of Cyclone Remal's flooding are unprecedented. Azizur Rahman, Director of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department, attributes this change to the effects of climate change, noting that the cyclone's prolonged impact is unlike any seen before.

Mangroves typically thrive in brackish or seawater, but the extraordinary flooding has pushed the ecosystem to its limits. "This 36-hour inundation is very unusual," Doe remarked, emphasising that it was three times longer than the inundation caused by Cyclone Sidr in 2007. Even during low tide, water levels did not recede, an anomaly that underscores the severity of the situation.

Despite the severe flooding, there is some hope for the Bengal tigers. Monirul Khan, a zoology professor at Jahangirnagar University, noted that while smaller animals like the spotted deer are highly vulnerable, Bengal tigers possess some natural resilience. "Bengal tigers can climb trees," Khan pointed out, suggesting that their adaptability might help them survive in the altered landscape.

However, the long-term survival of these tigers and the overall health of the Sundarbans ecosystem depend on the availability of freshwater and the restoration of the forest's natural balance. The immediate aftermath of Cyclone Remal requires urgent attention to mitigate the impacts on wildlife and preserve this critical habitat.

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