Effect Measure

Tiger attacks and climate change

The interconnected web of health and the environment never ceases to amaze me. A good example is a new report from India’s Sundarban islands suggesting that climate change, among other things, is contributing to an increase in tiger attacks:

Wildlife experts say endangered tigers in the world’s largest reserve are turning on humans because rising sea levels and coastal erosion are steadily shrinking the tigers’ natural habitat.

The Sundarbans, a 26,000 sq km area of low-lying swamps on India’s border with Bangladesh, is dotted with hundreds of small islands criss-crossed by water channels.

“In the past six months, seven fishermen were killed in an area called Netidhopani,” says Pranabes Sanyal of the World Conservation Union.

“Owing to global warming, the fragile Sundarbans lost 28% of its habitat in the last 40 years. A part of it is the core tiger reserve area from where their prey migrated.” (New Scientist and Reuters)

The disappearance of the mangrove stands as natural camouflage also makes the tigers more vulnerable to poachers. OK, maybe this story doesn’t seem so unusual. When you see the various pieces of it it all makes sense. But imagining it ahead of time isn’t so easy. Tiger attacks and climate change? Of course maybe if I knew more about tigers I would have predicted it. I would never have thought crocodiles were a major prey of tigers, for example:

But as sea levels rise, two islands have already disappeared and others are vulnerable. Wildlife experts say the destruction of the mangroves means the tigers’ most common prey, such as crocodiles, fish and big crabs, is dwindling.

These islands were said to be home to more than 500 tigers in the 1960s. Now the estimated number is down by half or, by some accounts, even more, over 80%, under the twin onslaughts of poaching and habitat loss. These islands are a unique habitat, but the tiger is disappearing all over India because of the same pressures. A century ago there were an estimated 40,000 tigers. Now the number is less than 1500. The loss seems to be accelerating. In 2002 there were over twice as many.

Maybe my grandchildren will still be able to show their children live tigers in a zoo somewhere. Maybe they will have to settle for old films, restored to play on whatever device will be used then to display recorded images.

Sigh.

Comments

  1. #1 Edmund
    October 22, 2008

    Oh, don’t be so pessimistic with this enviro-commie junk science. Tigers kill people, so the fewer the better, obviously! We’ll keep a few in the zoos just to remind everyone how glad they should be that they don’t exist in the wild anymore… maybe even feed them some of our enemy combatants from Gitmo and kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.

    And climate change just means my heating bills will go down.

    We’re definitely on the way to Utopia, if only you liberals would pull your heads out of you-know-where, it would be so clear.

  2. #2 RobT
    October 22, 2008

    Hard to know if Edmund is just a troll, or if he has an “ironic” sense of humour. Whatever.

    But meanwhile back to public health and changing climate, I saw an interesting TV program that showed dramatically increased incidence of child asthma in Trinidad caused by the dust coming across the Atlantic carried by the mid Atlantic high pressure system. At the same time, marine biologists are seeing unexplained death of fan corals throughout the Carribean reef systems.What’s the relationship?
    The climate modelling shows that the increased temperature of the Indian ocean,caused by global warming,feeds energy into the drought producing weather in north central Africa. This has caused Lake Chad, which used to be an enormous body of water even in traditional drought periods, to now be substantially dried up. In Lake Chad there is a toxic Aspergillus species that is now in the dry sand bed of what used to be Lake Chad. The dust now gets picked up, carried across the Atlantic ocean, and dropped on the Carribean. The result from analysis is fulminating asthma in kids where there was not much asthma ever before, and dying sea fan coral that is effected by the fungus from Africa.

    Ain’t it grand how the world is connected? Anybody else hear the canary singing?

  3. #3 llewelly
    October 22, 2008

    As Tim Lambert over at Deltoid has covered in the past, most of the island disappearance in the Sundarbans is due to subsidence. The next largest share is due to increased river flow. Sea level rise is last. The last two – river flow and sea level rise – are due to global warming, but subsidence is due to poor land use (largely failure to conserve mangroves), not global warming.

    Tim hasn’t covered the tigers – but I think the same applies here; global warming plays second fiddle to the deforestation. (However, the rate of sea level rise will increase – probably a lot – and that will have extremely serious consequences for the Sundarbans – only a little bit of sea level rise will put them under water.)

  4. #4 llewelly
    October 23, 2008

    Anybody else hear the canary singing?

    The canary’s been silent since Obama started talking about safe smoking clean coal .

  5. #5 pft
    October 23, 2008

    I wonder how many tigers there were in these periods of climate change:

    14,000+ BC Ice Age

    14000-8000 BC: end of glaciation; sudden and strong temperature fluctuations

    8000-6000 BC: rapid warming and melting of mountain glaciers; humid environment in the Middle East and savannah conditions in the Sahara

    5000-3500 BC: Post-Glacial “Climatic Optimum”: summer temperatures in NW Europe 2-3 deg C above that of the present day; monsoonal rains penetrate the Sahara; extensive irrigated agriculture in Mesopotamia. Arctic sea ice likely less than today.

    3500-1000 BC: drying of the Sahara (3500-1000); desertification and salinisation in Mesopotamia, Nile flow reduced; sharp decline in temperature about 1500 BC with a strong advance and initiation of new mountain glaciers (it has been suggested that the latter cooling might be connected with the huge eruption of the Santorin volcano in the Aegean Sea about 1450 BC)

    900-300 BC: Iron Age Epoch: Cool and wet in northern areas; strong regrowth of bogs after a much drier period

    400-800 AD: severe North Sea floods; growth of Alpine glaciers

    800-1200 AD: Secondary (Early Medieval) Climatic Optimum: summer temperature at least 1 deg C above present day; drier in NW Europe; Viking colonisation of Greenland

    1430-1850 AD: Little Ice Age (polar continental climate): cool in W. Europe and the Mediterranean; temperatures 1-3 deg C lower than at present; re-advancement of mountain glaciers; severe winters

    1850 AD -present: maritime Atlantic climate; global temperature rise 0.5 deg C; N.Atlantic sea surface warmer; increased rainfall in NW Europe.”

    But hey, we can all hope for another ice age I guess. That could wipe out 5 billion people or more and conserve our planets resources. Sea levels would drop. It might get a little chilly for the tigers, but their fur coat will come in handy so long as as the animals they eat for food will survive the climate change and prevent them from starving to death.

Current ye@r *