I'll admit, I didn't know that the Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), national animal of India and Bangladesh, was an endangered species, and strictly protected by the governments of those countries. There are estimated to be less than 2,000 of these beasts living today.
In Bangladesh, the last 200 Bengal tigers dwell in the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest. Every year during the rainy season, the Sundarbans - which are only centimeters above mean sea level - are submerged anywhere from a few inches to a few feet of water.
For many years, this fragile environment between the mainland and the sea has been a World Heritage Site and protected as a unique habitat for a large number of species. Now it is seriously threatened. Salt from the sea has severely stressed the mangroves, which, in contrast to normal trees, breathe with their roots. Due to a lack of funds, researchers are unable to ascertain the exact source of the problem, but they have described a mysterious dying of trees, which starts when the canopies of the huge mangroves rot away. This is widely attributed to the higher salt content in the water. In addition, the trees have simply stopped growing, says an employee of the forestry department.The Salty Taste of Global WarmingBapi sits pensively at the bow of his wooden boat. In his lap is a loaded rifle, just in case. Time and again, he points to the mangroves that are already slowly dying. "It's a crying shame because this forest is unique in the world. People eventually ruin everything," he says. He used to have an advertising slogan for his exclusive clients: "Come to the Sundarbans before the tourists come." But Bapi is changing his slogan to reflect the realities of today. His slogan for the future is "Come to the Sundarbans while it still exists."