Bangladesh tiger plan aims to cut clashes with humans

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh launched on Monday a program to train field staff in the Sundarban forest, home to Bengal tigers, to prevent contacts between villagers and the animals that may lead to tragedy for both.

Under a Bangladesh Tiger Action Plan, forest rangers and guards will learn to use tranquilizer guns to immobilize and capture tigers that stray from their normal habitat into human areas.

Tapan Kumar Dey, a senior forestry official, told reporters human-tiger conflicts registered a rise in Bangladesh in recent years, resulting in the deaths of three tigers and 30 people in 2009.

Dey said 193 people and 23 tigers have been killed in such encounters since 2000.

Another tiger casualty was reported on Friday in the southern district of Satkhira, where villagers initially tried to scare off a five-year-old tigress but eventually captured her and beat her to death.

The animal was the first tiger killed in Bangladesh this year, forestry officials said.

The tigers of Sundarban, better known as Royal Bengal tigers, usually feed on deer and wild boars but often slip into villages on the fringe of the world’s largest mangrove forest -- recently designated by the U.N. as a world heritage site -- to steal cows and goats from farmers’ sheds.

According to a survey by forest authorities in 2004, the Bangladesh part of the Sundarban, part of which lies in India, had 440 tigers.

Forestry officials believe strict enforcement of anti-poaching laws and better conservation efforts helped the tiger population rise since then, although they were unable to give a specific number.

According to the Bangladesh forests department, the number of tigers worldwide has fallen from around 100,000 in 1900, but in recent years was only about 3,200, with several tiger species now extinct.

The Royal Bengals are among the biggest groups still surviving.

The tigers who enter village areas or raid farms for livestock are usually too young or too old to kill enough deer to satiate their hunger, officials said.

Editing by Jerry Norton