Climate Change May Wipe Out Bengal Tigers, UN Analysis Finds
According to the report, extreme temperatures and sea level rise are threatening a 4,000-square-mile diverse ecosystem known as the Sundarbans. Located in southern coastal Bangladesh, nearly three-quarters of land here is just a few feet above sea level.
"Spanning more than 10,000 square kilometers, the Sundarbans region of Bangladesh and India is the biggest mangrove forest on Earth, and also the most critical area for Bengal tiger survival," said lead-author Sharif Mukul, an assistant professor at Independent University Bangladesh, in a press release earlier this year.
Researchers used framework found in two climatic scenarios as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to compare computer simulations with current distribution data of land-use and landcover factoring in extreme weather events and sea-level rise. They found that climate change will have a "substantial negative impact" on habitats found in low-lying regions — and the animals that call them home.
"Our model predicts that due to the combined effect of climate change and sea-level rise, there will be no suitable Bengal tiger habitat remaining in the Sundarbans by 2070," wrote study authors in Science of the Total Environment.
As The New York Times notes, Panthera tigris tigris are among nearly 500,000 other land species that face similar survival threats. However, as human encroachment and development reduces their major habitat — paired with climate extremes and rising sea levels — Bengal tigers will likely be getting hit with a "double whammy."
The IPCC has reported the very real impacts of human-caused climate change as greenhouse gas emission levels continue to climb beyond historic levels. In particular, tropical Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change with one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world and the many endemic threatened species who call it home.
But the authors are quick to note that there is still hope.
"The more of the Sundarbans that can be conserved — via new protected areas and reducing illegal poaching — the more resilient it will be to future climatic extremes and rising sea levels," said study co-author Bill Laurance, adding that enhancing terrestrial protected area coverage, along with monitoring, law enforcement implementation, and building awareness among local residents may help ensure the long-term survival and conservation of local tigers.
Once abundant, the endangered Bengal tigers are now mainly confined to small regions of India and Bangladesh with just over 2,500 left in the world. The largest predator found across the continent has seen its populations drop by 96 percent from almost 100,000 individuals at the turn of the 20th century due to habitat loss, hunting and illegal trade of tiger parts.
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Toxins in water produced by cyanobacteria was likely responsible for more than 300 elephant deaths in Botswana this year, the country's wildlife department announced on Monday.
How Did Cyanobacteria Poison the Elephants?<p>Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms common in water and sometimes found in soil. Some cyanobacteria produce neurotoxins.</p><p>The cyanobacteria "was growing in pans" or watering holes, the principal veterinary officer of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Mmadi Reuben, told reporters.</p><p>Reuben said the deaths had "stopped towards the end of June 2020, coinciding with the drying of pans."</p><p>"However we have many questions still to be answered such as why the elephants only and why that area only? We have a number of hypotheses we are investigating," added Reuben.</p><p>Similar elephant deaths have also been recorded in neighboring Zimbabwe.</p>
Climate Change to Blame?<p>Not all cyanobacteria are toxic but scientists say varieties dangerous to humans and animals are occurring more frequently as climate change drives up global temperatures.</p><p>Southern Africa's temperatures are rising at twice the global average, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.</p>
Elephant Paradise?<p>Africa's overall elephant population is declining due to poaching. But Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent's elephants, has seen numbers grow to around 130,000.</p><p>Botswana's government said it was continuing studies into the occurrence of the deadly bacteria. In the winter, elephants hydrate themselves mainly by eating roots and bark, especially of the baobab tree.</p>
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By Alexandra Villarreal
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Between 2000 and 2013, Earth lost an area of undisturbed ecosystems roughly the size of Mexico.
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