In India’s Sundarbans, People And Tigers Try To Coexist In A Shrinking Space

From Nation Public Radio by Ari Shapiro:

“In a remote corner of eastern India, far in the jungle and hours by boat from any village, there is a camp with a brightly colored shrine to a forest goddess. Behind a tall fence, a statue of Bonbibi wears silks and garlands, with a gold headdress. She shelters a boy from a tiger.

Every day, forest guard Bhabotaron Paik prostrates himself before the goddess and makes an offering of sweets before he goes out on patrol. When he has finished the ritual — the puja — Paik explains that protection from Bonbibi comes with conditions. “We will not take more than we need from the jungle. That is our vow to the goddess.”

The goddess Bonbibi — revered by Hindus, Muslims and Christians alike — reminds people here to live lightly on the land. But the landscape is changing, despite the people’s small footprint.

Climate change has started to reshape some parts of this place, the Sundarbans, where three major rivers — the Ganges, Meghna and Brahamaputra — blend into the Bay of Bengal and tides smudge the boundaries between land and water. It’s a patchwork of islands, some as small as sandbars, others miles long. And it’s home to the world’s largest mangrove forests, nearly 4,000 square miles stretching across India and Bangladesh, full of trees that survive on the border of land and brackish water.”


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