Man-Eaters - Page 1&2:Why
Cats Attack | 3&4:
The Real Facts | 5&6: Jim Corbett
| 7&8: The Sundarbans |
9&10: Dudhwa Tiger Reserve | 11&12: Reducing Attacks | 13&14: Tiger Attack Stories
Bengal tigers and conflict with man:
While killings by Siberian tigers are almost unheard of, the Bengal tigers of the Sundarbans (translation: 'beautiful forest'), bordering India and Bangladesh, used to regularly kill fifty or sixty people a year. This was strange given that the tigers were usually in prime condition and had adequate prey available. Approximately 600 tigers live in this region, the largest population anywhere in the world.
About 5,000 people frequent the swamps and waterways of the Sundarbans. Fishing boats traverse the area and many stop so the villages can collect items like firewood or honey. In the dark tangled forest tigers find it easy to stalk and attack a man absorbed in his work. Even fishermen in small boats have been attacked due to the tiger's incredible swimming ability.
It is necessary to place these attacks in perspective. Firstly, the kill rate has dropped significantly due to better management techniques and now only about three people lose their lives each year. Even at the rate of fifty or sixty kills per year kills would only provide about 3% of the yearly food requirements for the tiger population of the Sundarbans. Therefore, despite the notoriety associated with this area, man is only a supplement to the tiger's diet; they do not provide a primary food source.
Protection from the Gods:
The local villagers seek protection from tigers by worshipping the Hindu goddess Banobibi. She is considered the mother of the forest, while her Muslim consort, Dakshin Rai, is regarded as the overall ruler of the Sundarbans.
Before setting off into the mangroves most people make an offering at Banobibi's shrine, asking for her protection from the tiger's fury. Typical offerings include rice, fruit, and flowers.
Dakshin Rai is usually depicted as riding on the back of a tiger and legend says the lord of the Sundarbans can enter the big cat's body. Musicians beat sacred drums in his honor.
The aggression puzzle:
Theories abound as to why the Bengals of the Sundarbans are so aggressive.
Theory 1 - WATER SALINITY:
This area is very swampy and fresh water is scarce, meaning tigers ingest large amounts of salty water in an effort to quench their thirst; the result is damaged livers and kidneys.
Supporting this theory is the fact that the man-eating problem peaks in May and it is at this time that the water is at its most salty.
How exactly the level of salt in the water would cause a tiger to become a man-eater has yet to be explained. Some experts suggest that the saltwater may cause a form of craziness in the cats, resulting in them attacking man. However, other cat specialists have successfully shown man-eater numbers actually increase in areas where salinity is at its lowest.
Studies continue, but the water theory remains a matter of conjecture.