NPR logo Endangered Tigers Still Dangerous In The Sundarbans

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Endangered Tigers Still Dangerous In The Sundarbans

For most of history, tigers have been dreaded, mythical beasts — vicious killers that deserved no sympathy. But the tables have turned after centuries of hunting and poaching, and the world's tiger population is now dwindling dangerously low in numbers. Conservationists are fighting tooth and nail to protect the endangered predator.

Despite that, there's an exception along the waters of the Bay of Bengal. In the wild mangroves of the Sundarbian region, king tiger still reigns. Although historically low in numbers, they pose a daily threat to villagers, who subsist by fishing deep in the tiger-dense forests. According to photographer Karthik Subramanian: "Not a single day in the Sundarbans passes without hearing of someone being attacked or killed by a tiger."

While working on a photojournalism masters project for the University of Westminster, Subramanian spent several weeks this past summer documenting small fishing villages in the Indian and Bangladeshi parts of the Sundarbans. In addition to sharing a few photos with captions, the photographer also sent a description of the process.

"The Sundarbans Delta ... is the most densely populated tiger reserve in the world. With lack of electricity supply and complete lack of social security schemes, most of the villagers are pushed to make a living by fishing, prawn collecting and honey collecting inside the tiger reserve. ... On one hand, the tiger population is decreasing and needs to be protected. Yet on the other hand, the people who are forced to make a living in the forest deserve to be safe as well. ...

The time when I shot the story was the monsoon season, and the air was just filled with so much moisture that fungus shrouded every bit of clothing left around. And at one point my laptop stopped working because of the moisture content. Sickness is ever-present around that time; I got terribly ill twice. ... Snakes, insects, and other reptiles make frequent visits into your room. Yet it is one of the most beautiful places on the face of the planet.

The project consists of photographs of few of the many families that live with the fear of losing another member of the community to a tiger. ... The fishermen feel that every time they journey into the forest, the absolute silence ... is what is more scary than encountering one. Sundarbans is few of the places in the world where animals still rule over humans."