Sundarbans National Park
The Sundarbans covers 10,000 km2of land and water (more than half of it in India, the rest in Bangladesh) in the Ganges delta. It contains the world's largest area of mangrove forests. A number of rare or endangered species live in the park, including tigers, aquatic mammals, birds and reptiles.
2017 Conservation Outlook
Current state and trend of VALUES
Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT
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Description of values
The largest area of mangrove forest in the world
Rare and threatened terrestrial and aquatic mammals
The only ungulates present in the Sundarbans National Park are wild boar, Sus scrofa (LC), and spotted deer, Axis axis (LC), and the only primate is the rhesus macaque, Macaca mulatta (LC), all of which provide the main prey for the Royal Bengal tiger (IUCN, 1987).
Three species of wild cat are present: the jungle cat, Felis chaus (LC), and leopard cat, Prionailurus bengalensis (LC), and the globally endangered fishing cat, Prionailurus viverrinus (EN) (Gopal & Chauhan, 2006; IUCN, 2013). Three species of otter are present, two of which are globally threatened – smooth-coated otter, Lutra perspicillata (VU), and the oriental small-clawed otter, Aonyx cinerea (VU), (Gopal & Chauhan, 2006). The area also contains highly threatened aquatic mammals: the rare Ganges river dolphin, Platanista gangetica (EN), Irrawaddy dolphin, Orcacella brevirostris (VU), Indo-pacific finless porpoise, Neophocaena phocaenoides (VU), and Indo-Pacific hump-backed dolphin, Sousa chinensis (NT) (IUCN, 1987; UNEP-WCMC & IUCN, 2013a; IUCN, 2013).
Rare and threatened birds
Rare and threatened reptiles
Rare and threatened flora
Potential further indirect impacts from conversion of land to agriculture such as increases in agro-chemical loadings into the Sundarbans waters and increases in water extraction for agriculture, mean the indirect threats may be greater than from land-cover change alone.
As a consequence of land clearing, both habitat and food resources for higher level biodiversity are lost (V2, V3, V4, V5), and sedimentation dynamics are altered by the loss of mangrove areas and creation of embankments for fisheries and shrimp ponds, thus compromising the on-going ecological processes of the site (V1). These sites also release large amounts of natural and synthetic chemicals, which can have a direct impact on the biodiversity while also contributing to the loss of important ecological processes (Rahman et al., 2010), and subsequently to local biodiversity.
Participatory governance and alternative livelihood generation activities have been very successful in reducing antagonism between local communities and the management agencies and maintaining the Outstanding Universal Value of the site (West Bengal Forest Department, 2012). Management activities and methodological implementations (i.e. nylon fencing, encouragement of driving tigers back into forests over killings, relocation of problem tigers, introduction of electrified human models and introduction of face masks for the back of villagers heads) have served to reduce human-wildlife conflict in the buffer zone (West Bengal Forest Department, 2012).
Ecosystem-based management systems across the two countries containing the Sundarbans, India and Bangladesh, for monitoring of existing and potential threats and conservation of the WH sites will be key to the continued preservation of the values of both WH properties (UNESCO, 2001; PR Questionnaire, 2003).
There is good access to the Tiger Reserve through organized trips from Kolkata, or by rail, and by boat and bus (UNEP-WCMC & IUCN, 2013a). There is a ‘Mangrove Interpretation Centre’ at the Sundar Cheetal Sajnekhali Tourist Lodge (PR Questionnaire, 2003; UNEP-WCMC & IUCN, 2013a). Project Tiger and the West Bengal Forest Department have put resources into facilitating the development of eco-projects for local communities in the form of guide training for employment on tourist boats (UNESCO, 2002). 25% of revenue generated through eco-tourism activities is shared with the Joint Forest Management Committees of the local communities, further aiding the funding available to the site and community participation in management (West Bengal Forest Department, 2012).
Efforts should be made to coordinate monitoring methodologies between the two countries making up the Sundarbans, in order to assess the health of the metapopulation and the influence of differing management practices on the tiger population. There is little monitoring of other species including aquatic mammals. The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project currently monitors populations of aquatic mammals in the Bangladeshi Sundarbans, and monitoring techniques used by projects such as these would be useful for adoption within the Indian Sundarbans (Smith et al., 2006). Remote sensing and GIS methodologies are being employed throughout the Sundarbans to monitor siltation and coastal erosion levels (PR Questionnaire, 2003; Rahman et al., 2011). Climate is monitored by Meteorological stations at Haldi, Jhingakhali and Sajnakhali (UNEP-WCMC & IUCN, 2013a). However, thorough and continued monitoring of hydrological changes from increased salinity due to reduced upstream freshwater flow and sea level rise is necessary (UNESCO, 1987).
|№||Organization/ individuals||Project duration||Brief description of Active Projects|
|1||Centre for Advanced Research in Natural Resources and Management (CARNIAM) (Bangladesh)||“Project Batagur”: breeding and reintroduction programme for the critically endangered Northern river terrapin. Also surveying for the presence and status of this species in the Sundarbans, and works on a with the Turtle Survival Alliance – India. Bangladesh-based projects: Marine Turtle Conservation Project – sea turtle nest site surveys, studying nesting habitats, threats, regular surveys along the coast line, training and advocacy for sea turtle conservation, awareness building. Currently conducting a survey of the Estuarine crocodile in the area to assess its conservation status in the Sundarbans. “Bangladesh Python Project”: a radiotelemetry project to gain insight into their biology, behavior, habitat preferences and movements.|
|2||Turtle Survival Alliance – India||Project with the West Bengal Forest Department breeding and rearing Northern river terrapins at Sajnakhali for eventual reintroduction.|
|3||WWF-India||Countrywide monitoring of tiger status (2009-2010) for population size within the Tiger Reserve and at South 24, Parganas Forest division. Currently involved in preparation of a Report on Sundarbans Biodiversity by a group of 19 experts. Aim is to provide a critical evaluation of information on biodiversity within the Indian Sundarbans (from microbes to flora and fauna). “Sundarbans Programme”: habitat conservation, adaptation to climate change, advocacy and policy, human-wildlife conflict, alternative livelihoods, capacity building, research and information dissemination.|
|1||(PR) Periodic Reporting Questionnaire (2003). Sundarbans National Park|
|2||(SOUV) Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (2012). Sundarbans National Park.|
|3||Ahmad, I.U., C.J. Greenwood, A.C.D. Barlow, M.A. Islam, A.N.M. Hossain, M.M.H. Khan, J.L. and Smith, D. (2009). Bangladesh Tiger Action Plan 2009-2017. Bangladesh: Bangladesh Forest Department, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.|
|4||Akhtaruzzaman, A. (2000). ‘Mangrove Forestry Research in Bangladesh’. In Asia-Pacific cooperation on research for conservation of mangroves: proceedings of an international workshop, Okinawa, Japan, 26-30 March, 2000. Japan: United Nations University.|
|5||Barlow, A., Ahmed, T.U., Rahman, M., Howlader, A., Smith, A.C. and Smith, A.L.D. (2008). Linking monitoring and intervention for improved management of tigers in the Sundarbans of Bangladesh. Biological Conservation 141:2032-2040.|
|6||Blower, J. (1985). Sunderbans Forest Inventory Project, Bangladesh. Wildlife Conservation in the Sundarbans. Project Report 151. UK: Overseas Development Administration, Land Resources Development Centre.|
|7||Chaudhuri, A.B. and Choudhury, A. (1994). Mangroves of the Sundarbans. Volume 1: India. Switzerland: World Conservation Union.|
|8||Christensen, B. (1984). Ecological Aspects of the Sundarbans. Italy: FAO.|
|9||Danda, A.A., Sriskanthan, G., Ghosh, A., Bandyopadhyay, J. and Hazra, S. (2011). Indian Sundarbans Delta: A Vision. India: WWF-India.|
|10||Deodatus, F. and Ahmed, Z.U. (2002). Sundarban Biodiversity Conservaiton Project. Directives for Wildlife Management Planning of the Bangladesh Sundarban Forest. Internal Note – IN No. 54. Dhaka: Government of Bangladesh.|
|11||Donato, D.C., Kauffman, J.B., Murdiyarso, D., Kurnianto, S., Stidham, M. and Kannien, M. (2011). Mangroves among the most carbon-rich forests in the tropics. Nature 4:293-297.|
|12||Gopal, B. and Chauhan, M. (2006). Biodiversity and its conservation in the Sundarban mangrove ecosystem. Aquatic Science 68:338-354.|
|13||Haq, S.A. (2010). ‘Impact of climate change on “Sundarbans”, the largest mangrove forest: ways forward’, paper delivered at the 18th Commonwealth Forestry Conference, Edinburgh, 29 June 2010.|
|14||Hendrichs, H. (1975). The status of the tiger Panthera tigris (Linne, 1758) in the Sundarbans mangrove forest (Bay of Bengal). Saugetierkundliche Mtteilungen 23:161-199.|
|15||IUCN (1987). World Heritage Nomination – IUCN Technical Evaluation. Sundarbans (India). Switzerland: IUCN.|
|16||IUCN (2013). ‘The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2.’ <http://www.iucnredlist.org> Accessed 18 March 2014.|
|17||Iftekhar, M.S. (2004). Environmental consciences of oil pollution on the Bangladesh Sundarban: a brief review. ISME 3:11.|
|18||Iftekhar, M.S. and Islam, M. (2004). Degeneration of Bangladesh’s Sundarbans mangroves: a management issue. International Forest Review 6:123-135.|
|19||Iftekhar, M.S. and Saenger, P. (2008). Vegetation dynamics in the Bangladesh Sundarbans mangroves: a review of forest inventories. Wetlands Ecology & Management 16:291-312.|
|20||Islam, M.S. and Wahab, M.A. (2005). A review on the present status and management of mangrove wetland habitat resources in Bangladesh with emphasis on mangrove fisheries and aquaculture. Hydrobiologia 542:165-190.|
|21||Islam, Sadiq. ‘World's largest mangrove forest under threat’. CNN, (29 June 2001). < http://www-cgi.cnn.com/2001/fyi/student.bureau/06/29/sundar…; . Accessed 7 March 2014.|
|22||Jhala, Y.V., Qureshi, Q. and Gopal, R. (eds). 2015. The Status of Tigers in India 2014. National Tiger Conservation Authority, New Delhi & The Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun|
|23||Jhala, Y.V., Qureshi, Q., Gopal, R. and Sinha, P.R. (2011). Status of the Tigers, Co-predators, and Prey in India. India: National Tiger Conservation Authority, Govt. of India and Wildlife Institute of India.|
|24||Khan, M.M.H. (2005). Species diversity, relative abundance and habitat use of the birds in the Sundarbans East Wildlife Sanctuary, Bangladesh. Forktail 21:79-86.|
|25||Milne, R. (1997). Mission Report: South Asia Meeting to Review Status Conservation of World Natural Heritage and Design and Cooperative Plan of Action. January 1997 New Delhi, India. Report prepared for the World Heritage Centre, UNESCO. (Unpublished).|
|26||Ministry for Environment and Forests (2010). Fourth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Bangladesh: Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.|
|27||Naskar, K.R., Sarkar, N.S., Ghosh, A., Dasgupta, M. and Sengupta, B. (2004). Status of the Mangroves and Mangrove Ecosystem of the Sundarbans in West Bengal: Its Impact on Estuarine Wetland Fisheries. Bulletin 134. India: Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute.|
|28||Peng, L. (2000). Environmental ecology and economic utilization of mangroves in China. China: China Higher Education Press.|
|29||Rahman, M.M., Chongling, Y., Islam, K.S. and Haoling, L. (2009). A brief review on pollution and ecotoxicologic effect on Sundarbans mangrove ecosystem in Bangladesh. IJE E 1:369-382.|
|30||Rahman, M.M., Rahman, M.M. and Islam, K.S. (2010). The causes of deterioration of Sundarban mangrove forest ecosystem in Bangladsesh: Conservation and sustainable management issues. Aquaculture, Aquarium, Conservation & Legislation International Journal of the Bioflux Society 3:77-90.|
|31||Rahman, M.R. and Asaduzzaman, M. (2010). Ecology of Sundarban, Bangladesh. Journal of Science Foundation 8:35-47.|
|32||Rainbouth, W. (1991). ‘The fish communities and fisheries of the Sundarbans with a framework for future studies’. In: Seidensticker, J., Kurin, R. and Townsend, A.K. (eds.), The commons in South Asia: Societal pressure and environmental integrity in the Sundarbans of Bangladesh. Proceedings from a workshop held November 20-21, 1987 in Washington DC, pp. 108-127. USA: Smithsonian Institution.|
|33||Sanyal Pranabes (2012), ‘Climate Change Affecting Wildlife with Special Reference to West Bengal. In. “Coping With Disasters”, Ed. Desai Mamata and Sandip Haldar, pp 269-276. Abhijit Publications, New Delhi-110002.|
|34||Sanyal, P., Mukhopadhyay, A. and Das, I. (2008). Sundarban-the greatest mangal diversity of the planet. Journal of the Indian Society of Coastal Agricultural Research, 26:58-62.|
|35||Scott, D.A. (1989). A Directory of Asian wetlands. Switzerland: IUCN.|
|36||Singh, A., Bhattacharya, P., Vyas, P. and Roy, S. (2010). Contribution of NTFPs in the livelihoods of mangrove forest dwellers of the Sundarban. Journal of Human Ecology, 29:191-200.|
|37||Smith, B.D., Braulik, G., Strindberg, S., Ahmed, B. and Mansur, R. (2006). Abundance or Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcacella brevirostris) and Ganges river dolphins (Patanista gangetica gangetica) estimated using concurrent counts made by independent teams in the waterways of the Sundarbans mangrove forest in Bangladesh. Marine Mammal Science 22: 527-547.|
|38||Smith, B.D., Braulik, G., Strindberg, S., Mansur, R., Diyan, M.A.A. and Ahmed, B. (2009). Habitat selection of freshwater-dependent cetaceans and the potential effects of declining freshwater flows and sea-level rise in waterways of the Sundarbans mangrove forest, Bangladesh. Aquatic Conservation 19:209-225.|
|39||State Party of Bangladesh (2017) Report of the State Party to the World Heritage Committee on the state of conservation of The Sundarbans (Bangladesh).|
|40||TSA (2014). 'Northern river terrapin (Batagur baska)'. <http://www.turtlesurvival.org/component/taxonomy/term/summa…; Accessed 18 March 2014.|
|41||UNEP-WCMC and IUCN (2013a). Sundarbans National Park, India. World Heritage Information Sheet. UK: UNEP-WCMC.|
|42||UNEP-WCMC and IUCN (2013b). The Sundarbans Bangladesh. World Heritage Information Sheet. UK: UNEP-WCMC.|
|43||UNESCO (1987). Report on the 11th Session of the Committee. France: UNESCO World Heritage Commitee.|
|44||UNESCO (2002). Report on the 26th Session of the Committee. France: UNESCO World Heritage Commitee.|
|45||Verheij, P.M., Foley, K.E. and Engel, K. (2010). Reduced to skin and bones. An analysis of tiger seizures from 11 tiger range countries (2000-2010). UK: TRAFFIC International.|
|46||WWF-India (2014). 'Sundarbans Programme'. <http://www.wwfindia.org/about_wwf/reducing_footprint/climat…; Accessed 18 March 2014.|