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Deadly Bangladesh cyclone floods key tiger habitat

Photo : AFP

Forest experts in Bangladesh issued a stark warning on Tuesday following the devastation caused by Cyclone Remal, which slammed into low-lying areas of Bangladesh and neighboring India on Sunday, claiming the lives of at least 38 people and affecting millions more. The cyclone's impact was particularly severe on the Sundarbans mangrove forest, a vital tiger habitat straddling the border between Bangladesh and India, where the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers converge with the sea.

Mihir Kumar Doe, head of Bangladesh's southern forest department, revealed that the Sundarbans experienced unprecedented submersion, with seawater inundating the area for over 36 hours, surpassing previous records. This inundation resulted in the loss of more than 100 freshwater ponds, crucial water sources for the diverse wildlife inhabiting the mangroves, including the endangered Bengal tigers.

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The Sundarbans, home to approximately 114 Bengal tigers in Bangladesh alone, faced significant challenges as the cyclone wreaked havoc on its ecosystem. Abu Naser Mohsin Hossain, senior forest official for the Sundarbans, expressed concerns over the potential contamination of freshwater sources and its repercussions on the vulnerable wildlife population.

Despite being accustomed to monsoon storms, Cyclone Remal stood out for its prolonged duration, lasting longer than any previous cyclone in the region, according to Azizur Rahman, director of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department. The cyclone's ferocity led to extensive flooding, submerging areas near the sea under three meters of water, while inland regions were inundated with depths ranging from 1.2 to 1.5 meters.

The aftermath of the cyclone revealed a grim reality for the Sundarbans' inhabitants, with dozens of dead spotted deer and other prey animals discovered by forest teams. Concerns were raised about the fate of the larger predators, such as Bengal tigers, with experts fearing the worst amid the unprecedented flooding.

Monirul Khan, a tiger expert and zoology professor at Jahangirnagar University, highlighted the vulnerability of smaller animals like spotted deer to the cyclone's impact, emphasizing the tigers' ability to seek refuge by climbing trees.

As Bangladesh grapples with the aftermath of Cyclone Remal, the resilience of its unique ecosystems, particularly the Sundarbans, faces a stern test, prompting calls for concerted efforts to safeguard its precious biodiversity in the face of mounting climate challenges.

May 29, 2024 6:09 p.m. 458

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