Tigers from the Bangladesh side of the Sundarbans have been travelling to the other side of the border to look for mates.
"For tigers, there are no borders, so the ones on the Bangladesh side of the Sundarbans in Khulna district keep straying into the West Bengal end of these extensive stretches of mangrove forests, which are among the largest in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site," reports The Statesman.
These strays are usually males seeking female mates, say Indian forest guards who monitor their movements closely so that their influx does not intensify animal-human conflicts that are rampant in the region.
Four such instances of straying were recorded by the forest department of India this year.
Throwing light on the phenomenon, West Bengal's forest minister, Jyotipriya Malik, said these tigers from Bangladesh usually come to the Indian side during the mating season, which is between November and January.
Soma Sorkhel, who has been studying the tigers of Sundarbans, said that one of the reasons for the tigers from Bangladesh to come over to India might be the fights that take place among male tigers over a female they fancy.
Usually, the male tigers who lose the battle have to leave the area after the fight is over. So, they enter the villages near the forest.
India's forest department officials have been trying to establish the movement patterns of these big cats. They lay traps with baits to capture the stray tigers. On occasions, they try playing audio recordings of the roars of female tigers or using tranquiliser guns, but the strays are hard to pin down.
Biswajit Das, the Sajnekhali tiger reserve range officer, said that a tiger who has been weakened by a fight is not capable of hunting in the dense forest, which requires physical strength, so it turns to the villages for easy prey.
The Sundarbans villagers, too, have enabled the strays unwittingly. During the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, a number of them had returned from cities after losing jobs. Back in their villages, they had no option but to extract the resources of the forests to support their families.
In many places, they tore down the protective fencing to ease their entry into the forests, but in the bargain, they made it easier for the tigers from the other side of the border to come in.
The good news, though, is that the tiger population in the Sundarbans, as of 2020-21, stood at 96, significantly up from 76 in 2014 and 88 in 2018.