SUNDERBAN DIARIES: Lesser-known predators
Sunanda Bose is an activist and a member of erstwhile Taki Zamindar family
Sunderbans is anytime a land of predators. However, we mostly relate it to the land of the Royal Bengal Tiger, though far more formidable predators lurk in its waters. I have already mentioned Kamats in my earlier diary. However, a far more formidable predator lurks in the muddy waters. It is the Crocodile. The largest estuarian crocodile of the world is found in Sunderbans. It is so powerful that it is known to have killed even tigers. Sometimes after heavy showers and floods, a crocodile enters nearby village ponds. The predicament of dwellers is expressed by the Bengali saying: “Jole Kumir, Dangaey Bagh…” (Crocodile in water and tiger on land).
Another animal which is nearing extinction is the Leopord Cat or Baghrol. Unfortunately, they are beaten to death by villagers as they prey on poultry and smaller mammals and birds. Tourists go to the Sundarbans to have a glimpse of the King of the Forest, The Royal Bengal Tiger. I have visited Sundarbans at least fifteen times. Dakshin Roy has always eluded me.. But I have no regrets. The mesmerising mangrove forests, and its varied inhabitants have always left me wishing for more!
Among birds, different varieties of kingfishers have also enchanted me. Strictly not a predator, nonetheless, kingfishers display an artistic drive while they swoop down to catch their prey --- fish. Locals risk their lives daily passing through creeks and forests, despite knowing the dangers that lie ahead. They know that they may never see tomorrow again, thanks to the predators. But they have no option. The lure of livelihood, be they fish, honey or crab collection, force them to risk their lives. Sometimes surreptitiously they enter core areas without permit, placing their faith on BonBibi for they are the children of Bada Bon, destined to set sail in the land of Eighteen Bhatis.;