Sundarban Tiger Reserve

One of the first nine Tiger Reserves declared under the Project Tiger scheme in the year 1973.

The National Park area of the Tiger Reserve is a natural World Heritage Site, which was declared in the year 1985.

The Sundarban Tiger Reserve is a part of the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve, which is one of the few globally recognised Biosphere Reserves in the country. It was declared as a Biosphere Reserve in the year 1989.

It constitutes over 60% of the total mangrove forest area in the entire country and has 90% of the total Indian mangrove species.

There are 140 plant species under 59 families and 101 genera which have been reported from the entire Biosphere region by Naskar et al. These comprise of true mangroves or major elements, minor elements of mangroves or/and mangrove associates, back mangrove trees and shrubs, non-halophytic non-mangrove associates in the area, halophytic herbs, shrubs, and weeds and epiphytic and parasitic plants.

The Sundarbans has been classified as a Tiger Conservation Landscape of global priority, as it is the only mangrove habitat (along with the Bangladesh), which support a significant tiger population.

The Tiger Reserve is home to a large number of endangered and globally threatened species like the tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), fishing cat (Felis viverrina) and estuarine crocodile (Crocodilus porosus), Gangetic (Platanista gangetica) and Irrawady Dolphin (Oracella brevirostris), king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), water monitor lizard (Varanus salvator) etc.

It harbours significant populations of the river terrapin (Batagur baska), which was once believed to be extinct.

It is the nesting ground for marine turtles like Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) and Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).

The mangroves serve as nurseries to shell fish and fin-fishes and sustain the coastal fisheries of the entire eastern coast.

A number of heronaries are formed here during monsoon, which harbour large bird populations, which come and breed here. Also, during the winters it is home for Trans-Himalayan migratory birds. Goliath heron (Ardea goliath) is another important bird is found in the area.

It is known as a kingfisher’s paradise as out of the 12 species of kingfishers found in the country 8 species are found here.

Two species of horse shoe crabs (which are considered as living fossils as they are thought to be more than 400 million years old), i.e. Tachypleus gigas and Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda out of the four species found in the world are found here.

The mangrove forests trap debris and silt and stabilise the near shore environment. Certain mangrove species also act as bio-filters as they have been found to bio-accumulate heavy metals. They filter ground-water and storm-water run off which often contains harmful pesticides. They recharge the ground water by collecting rain water and slowly releasing it to the underground reservoir.

The mangrove forests act as a natural shelter belt and protect the hinterland from storms, cyclones, tidal surges, sea-water seepage and intrusion.

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