The Sundarbans rangers now catch sight of the critically endangered Bengal tigers. Even a month ago, sighting a Bengal tiger, the flagship animal of the world largest mangrove forest, felt like a lifetime achievement
Tourists cannot cruise through the Sundarbans now and even fishermen and honey collectors (mawali) cannot intrude into the mangrove forest.
Since the government imposed a country-wide shutdown to stem the coronavirus, no motorised boat has been allowed into the territory to disturb the forest's tranquility or erode the canals and creeks' silted shore.
As a consequence, the wild animals, who used to peek from behind the dense bushes with fearful eyes, have come out of their hiding places and frequently visit the shore to quench thirst with fresh water.
Interestingly, the Sundarbans rangers can now catch sight of the critically endangered Bengal tigers. Even a month ago, sighting a Bengal tiger, the flagship animal of the world largest mangrove forest, seemed a lifetime achievement.
"Since the lockdowns began, the sighting of the Bengal tigers, spotted deer and other wild animals have risen. Many forest rangers have spotted tigers playing along the shore,"Belayet Hossen, the divisional forest officer of the Sundarbans East Division, told The Business Standard.
However, the forest officer did not mention the sighting points citing security reasons of human-tiger conflict.
Recently, a news outlet quoting the director of the Indian part of Sundarbans tiger reserve said that after the coronavirus-induced lockdown, sightings of tigers have also gone up.
The 10,000square kilometer-Sundarbans, straddling Bangladesh and West Bengal of India is home to around 210 Bengal tigers.
Two southern districts of Bangladesh - Khulna (east) and Satkhira (west), consists of sixty percent of the Sundarbans. Of the two forest divisions, the popular tourist spots are located in the eastern part, said Belayet.
According to Forests Department data, in 2018-19 fiscal year, the government had earned Tk two crore as revenue from 251,969 domestic and international tourists, who visited the Sundarbans. The number of visitors increased by 13.5 percent than the previous fiscal year.
But due to the coronavirus, the total count of visitors in this current fiscal will not touch the record.
Following studies between December 2016 and May 2018, the Forests Department revealed that there were 114 tigers in the Bangladesh part of the mangrove forest.
At least 72 tigers were photographed during the latest studies. Of them, 63 were adults, 14 juveniles and five cubs. Among the adults, only nine were male, 44 female and 10 sex-unidentified, according to the Status of Tigers in Bangladesh Sundarban 2018.
Bashirul-Al-Mamun, the Divisional Forest Officer of the Sundarban West Division, said that if the natural forest is kept as it is, wild animals get their congenial breeding environment.
"However, this is not the right time to say that tiger population is increasing, unless a fresh census is completed."