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Program Big Cats Initiative

  • Bengal (Indian) tigers account for about half of the world's wild tigers. Despite their status as an icon of India, Bengal tigers are endangered. The largest population of Bengal tigers lives in the Sundarbans National Park and Tiger Reserve. The reserve covers 8,000 square miles of densely forested river delta. It spans the border of India and Bangladesh. As human populations increase and habitat is destroyed, competition between humans and Bengal tigers increases. The reserve's swamps lack an abundance of the tiger's natural prey—buffalo, deer, wild pigs, and other large mammals. Thus, humans have become easy targets for the hungry predators. On average, tigers kill 50 people in the reserve each year. Conservation efforts within the reserve help protect the Bengal tiger population. Tigers are still threatened by illegal poaching and retaliatory killings resulting from human-tiger conflicts in the wild.

    1. Which type of big cat has been an icon of India for over 2,500 years?

      Tigers have been an icon of India for over 2,500 years.

    2. What is the range of the Bengal tiger?

      The Bengal tiger's range is from Pakistan to Burma and throughout most of India.

    3. What is the purpose of the Sundarbans National Park and Tiger Reserve?

      The purpose of the Sundarbans National Park and Tiger Reserve is to protect the tiger's natural habitat. By protecting their natural habitat, humans ensure that the tigers will have enough space, shelter, and food to live. Parks and reserves help to conserve endangered and threatened species throughout the world.

    4. What factors contribute to the human-cat conflict that exists in the Sundarbans National Park and Tiger Reserve?

      Within the reserve, the tigers target humans because they lack an abundance of natural prey. Despite the danger, the locals still enter the reserve to access resources they need, including wood, fish, and honeycomb. Locals wear backward masks to help prevent attacks, but the tigers may have adapted to that strategy.

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