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Is Bangladesh’s expanded sanctuary a brave step or a paper tiger?

13 / 10 / 2017, Mongabaycom News

In the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) lives unaware of the debate surrounding its survival. Its home, the Sundarbans, stretches like a green wall across 10,000 square kilometers (3,861 square miles) of the South Asian coast, standing between Bangladesh and a Bay of Bengal made increasingly volatile as a result of climate change. Since a study in 2015 revealed there were only 106 tigers left in the Sundarbans – a number four times smaller than previously thought ¬– the government has been under increasing pressure to act boldly to meet its commitment at the Global Tiger Forum summit of doubling wild tiger populations by 2022. In August, the Bangladesh government doubled the size of its wildlife sanctuary to enclose 52 percent of the forest’s area – forbidding access to local people in a bid to force out tiger poachers. Although seemingly benign, the decision overlooks growing tensions in Bangladeshi society over the future of the forest and its biodiversity. To some, the sanctuary expansion is an ambitious effort to reverse decades of tiger poaching; to others, it is an empty gesture intended to disguise the creeping industrialization of a World Heritage Site. A local newspaper describes the Sundarbans as “a fragile ark”, and indeed, the mangrove forest shelters around 3,000 species of plants and animals, a number of which – including the Bengal tiger – are endangered. But the biology of the mangrove tree defies any label of “fragile”. It is unique among flowering plants…

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