The Royal Bengal Tiger living in the Sundarbans in Bangladesh mainly has six prey. Out of this, the number of barking deer in the Sundarbans is dropping drastically. But in the last 30 years, three out of the remaining five prey have increased in population. Spotted deer and wild boars have doubled and the monkey population has also increased.

Researchers said, apart from being crucial for the survival of tigers, these animals are also part of the biodiversity of the Sundarbans and need to be preserved.

The information came to light after a three-year census study. The forest division, German Cooperation and Swiss unit of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) jointly conducted this study. The study was led by Jahangirnagar University’s zoology department’s professor Abdul Aziz. The report will be officially unveiled on 29 July, International Tiger Day. This year’s motto is – Save Tigers, enrich the Sundarbans.

Professor Abdul Aziz told Prothom Alo, “This is first time we have conducted a census on the main prey of the tigers in the Sundarbans. From the result of the census, we can take the necessary steps for the conservation of tiger’s food. Moreover, in the future we will be able to compare whether the number of these animals have increased or not.”

The census revealed the population of spotted deer, tiger’s main food, in the Sundarbans. In a census conducted in the 80s, the number was found to be around 80-85 thousand. In the latest census, the population increased to 1,41,357.

However, another species of deer, the barking deer, are reducing in numbers. In the Indian half of the Sundarbans, the barking deer have already been declared extinct. In Bangladesh, 2,265 deer of this species were found in the 80s. But in the latest census, only 687 barking deer were spotted in the Sundarbans.

After spotted deer, the tiger’s favourite prey in the Sunderbans is the wild boar. In the census, the number of wild boars was found to be at 45,110. In the previous census, it was 28,000. Spotted deer contribute 79 per cent of the tigers food requirements in the Sundarbans, wild boars meet 11 per cent.

In the census, the three other prey of tigers were monitor lizards, porcupine and monkeys. The census revealed that there are 25,124 monitor lizards, 12,241 porcupines and 1,52,444 monkeys in the Sundarbans. This is the first time a census was taken for monitor lizards and porcupines. In the 80s’ census, the number of monkeys were found to be 1,26,220.

Dhaka University’s zoology department professor Anwar Hossain said, “We can’t save the Sundarbans by only focusing on saving tigers. We have to conserve the tiger’s food and also work to save the Sundarbans ecosystem. Hopefully, the data from this census will be used to conserve tigers.”

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy