Tiger Widows of Sundarbans
Sundarbans, pride of Bangladesh, is the home of the magnificent rarely seen Royal Bengal Tiger. Now, the tigers that roam through the vast mangrove forests are coming into closer contact and conflict with humans, and attacks are on the rise.
The great mangrove forest of Sundarbans, pride of Bangladesh, is the home of the magnificent, rarely seen Royal Bengal Tiger. Now, the tigers that roam this vast forest, in the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna Rivers, are coming into closer contact, and into conflict, with humans. Attacks are on the rise, and it is estimated that the tigers kill 120 people every year.
Climate change is causing accelerated sea level rise and growing salinity in the southern Sundarbans. Just on the other side of the forest is a desert-like landscape where the soil has become deeply cracked and infertile due to lack of fresh water. The longstanding cultivation of shrimp is also in decline.
Many farmers here cannot survive and are forced to venture deep into the forest to fish, search for honey, or gather firewood, making them particularly vulnerable to attack. The intensive exploitation of the forest is also forcing the tigers onto the mainland in search of food.
The villagers of the Sundarbans turn to their local goddess, Bonbibi, and in tiny thatched-roof shrines, Hindus and Muslims alike pray to her for protection before they venture back into the forest. Superstition is pervasive. A woman whose husband leaves to the Sundarbans must not comb her hair, cook in the middle of the day, wash clothes, or clean the house.
If her husband is killed by a tiger she is seen as a harbinger of bad luck. She is avoided, expelled, and, after the dramatic death of her husband, is thrown out by her husband’s family. Already poor, she has no choice but to provide for her family by herself.