he tiger, the fisherman, his wife and our future

A climate change warning from the Indian jungle

‘On that day I was not in a good mood. Some bad news was going to come to my heart’

Minati Roy

‘The whole world became dark. I could no longer see anything as my head was inside his mouth’

Rabi Majumdar

‘If you take the tiger out of the landscape, the entire ecosystem will vanish’

Joydip Kundu, conservationist

‘The tigers are a protector of the mangroves’

Dr Sugata Hazra, climate scientist

The tiger, the fisherman, his wife and our future

Either click play to listen to our folk tale, or scroll to read

Once, far from here but close enough to matter, a woman stood waiting. She stood near the entrance to her hut and waited for the fishing boat that would bring her husband home…

* * *

The woman and her husband lived where the earth meets the rising sea. They worked hard but they were poor, and the family was often hungry. The ground around them had become too salty to grow crops.

Across the river there was a thick mangrove forest. Every day the woman’s husband went into the forest to search for wood to keep them warm and food to ease the ache in their stomachs. Her husband collected honey from the honeycombs, he fished in the water channels and dragged home tree boughs to burn and use for shelter.

Husband was nervous of the dark forest. It was a tangled, mysterious, forbidden place, of moths and fire ants, spotted deer and monkeys. And in the forest there lived a great beast. A watchful, terrifying TIGER.

Sometimes men would go to the mangroves and never come back. Some only came back in pieces, their bodies broken. Others survived but with horrible scars.

* * *

One day, Husband went into the forest. Husband went into the forest to seek honey. He found himself walking between the honeycombs, relieved that he could take food back to his family. Suddenly he felt a shadow. He looked up and saw a tiger – a great, muscled tiger in his path, staring at him with its yellow eyes.

The tiger bared his teeth and snarled: ‘Why are you here? This place is not for you, and I am hungry.’

Husband was scared, but he tried to whistle a comforting tune. He put his hand into his bag and took out a honeycomb. He tossed it to Tiger. ‘Take my food,’ he said. ‘But then let me go.’

Tiger pawed at the honeycomb lying on the ground in front of him, and as he bent his head to stamp on it and break it open, Husband gently tiptoed, tiptoed towards a big stick that he could see at the side of the river bank.

But when Tiger had done with sucking the sweet honey, he drew closer. ‘Still here?’ he scowled.

‘Yes indeed!’ said Husband bravely, ‘Why should I leave?’

‘I am protector of this place. I guard these trees. This precious land is disappearing and I must keep it safe. Take those you love to the big city or I am going to eat you.’

So Husband gathered his wits and ran home to his wife.

* * *

The next day, Husband went back to the forest to try and fish. He found himself dragging nets in the sparkling, cold water of the river when suddenly he felt a shadow. He looked up and saw the tiger, the great striped tiger, standing on the riverbank, staring at him with its yellow eyes.

Tiger bared his teeth and glared: ‘Why are you here? This place is not for you and I am still hungry.’

Husband was afraid, but he tried to hum his comforting tune. He put his hand into his bag and took out a handful of prawns. He tossed them to Tiger. ‘Take my food,’ he said. ‘But then let me go.’

Tiger pawed at the prawns jumping in the mud, and as he bent to gulp them down, Husband waded, waded towards a fat stick he could see on the far bank.

When he had swallowed the shellfish down in a couple of gulps, Tiger stretched his body and eased himself down into the water. He swam towards Husband. ‘Still here?’ he snarled.

‘Why yes!’ said Husband, trembling. ‘Why should I leave?’

‘I am protector of this place. Without me to guard it, this forest cannot survive. Take those you love to the big city or I am going to eat you.’

So Husband gathered his wits and paddled quickly home to his wife.

* * *

The next day, Husband went into the forest again. Husband went into the forest in search of wood. He found himself up a tree, sawing its branches, when suddenly he felt a shadow. He looked down and saw Tiger – great, orange Tiger, staring up at him with its yellow eyes.

Tiger bared his teeth and growled: ‘Why are you here? This place is not for you and I am still very hungry.’

Husband was now terrified. He felt in his bag but all he had left was a single mangrove pod. He took it from his bag and threw it high for Tiger to catch in his jaws. ‘Take my food, but then let me go.’

Tiger snatched at the seed and crunched into the husk. Husband slid, slid, slid down fast but he could see no stick, so he stood stock-still beside the trunk.

Tiger swished his tail and leaped in front of cowering Husband. Tiger could see Husband’s fear and Husband could see Tiger’s fury.

And then Husband heard a noise: a beat, like drumming or the pulse of a great heart. The sound seemed to come from outside him, from the dark mantle of the far forest and the mud banks all around – and even from the throat of Tiger himself: ‘These were my warnings, but you humans will not stop.’ Tiger looked to the right, where sea had swallowed land, and to the left where once there had been trees, and he shook his head. ‘Just how… how do you think we’ll all survive when there is nothing left?’

* * *

Hour after hour the woman stood and waited. She thought about her husband in the forest and felt a storm gather in her heart, like a tiger set to pounce. ‘I am afraid,’ she whispered. ‘I fear some great misfortune.’

A climate warning from the Indian jungle

In south Bengal, both man and tiger rely on the world's largest mangrove forest for their survival – but they are not the only ones.

The 4,000 square miles of mangrove forest that make up the Sundarbans National Park act as a buffer when violent cyclones hit, protecting millions of people in nearby Kolkata and the rest of south Bengal from deadly storm surges.

Climate change graphic – Kolkata city, mangrove trees

Like other large forests, the salt-tolerant mangroves absorb carbon dioxide – playing a vital role in combating global warming.

Meet the real people behind the story

Find out why poor communities risk their lives in the forest, how tigers protect millions in south Bengal and why climate change threatens them all.

His wife – Minati Roy
Tigers paw – tiger conservation
The fisherman – Anath Seal
His wife – Laxmi Dhali
His wife – Sabitri Mondal
The fisherman – Rabi Majumdar
The fisherman – Avijit Dhali
Map of Sundarbans
The fisherman – Ranjit Biswas
Our future – One Million Ways campaign logo

The tiger conservationist

Hear Kolkata-based Joydip Kundu, a conservationist with the Society for Heritage and Ecological Researches, explain why tigers attack and how they keep millions of people in south Bengal safe from the devastating impacts of climate change.

‘The tiger is protecting the entire ecosystem. It is the fear of the tigers that is keeping people out of the forest.’

Either click play to listen, or scroll to read

Conflict between tigers and humans in the Sundarbans is not new. This has been from ages. Because if you go down into the history you will see that the Sundarbans was a land which was full of tigers. People started entering into the Sundarbans – this is particularly from the British period. And then they started encroaching into the tiger habitat and this is how conflict began from that point of time.

These people, they don’t have alternative livelihoods, so ultimately they are falling back on the forest. They are venturing into the forest to tap honey, to catch crabs, for fishing. If given a chance they are going into the forest to cut down trees. So this is how, when they are entering the forest, they are being attacked by tigers.

For a tiger, the Sundarbans is a very poor habitat. We see a tiger in the Sunderbans eating crabs, eating fish. It is not easy to catch a prey in this sort of landscape or this sort of vegetation.

In the same way, when a tiger sees a human being walking inside the forest, he will see it as its prey.

If you take the tiger away from the landscape, people will be fearless and they will go inside the forest and do all sorts of illegal activities – felling of trees and other activities as well.

So tigers are protecting the entire ecosystem. It is from the small fish in the river to everything in the Sundarbans – the tiger is the sole protector of everything. The moment you take the tiger out of the landscape, the entire ecosystem will vanish.

It’s like a chain. The tiger is protecting the ecosystem, the mangrove ecosystem. And because of that, the mangrove shield is still there. The moment this mangrove shield vanishes, the cyclones like Aila, Sidr and all that will straight away hit the city of Kolkata.

It is because of the Sundarbans mangrove shield that the entire south of Bengal is safe.

His wife – Laxmi Dhali

The wife

‘I was busy cooking, but I was not feeling well. I had a feeling that something had happened. Then I saw my brother-in-law crying and I felt that my husband is no more.

‘Afterwards, I couldn’t educate my children. Now my son goes fishing daily. I don’t feel like sleeping until my son returns home. Sometimes I even walk on the road to see if he is coming.’

Laxmi Dhali

The fisherman

Avijit Dhali lost his father to a tiger attack five years ago. Find out why he risks his own life to fish in the forest where his father died.


Fish, crabs and honey

The Sundarbans is a wild and dangerous place. Only the poorest and most vulnerable people settle there. Unable to farm because of increasingly salinated land, they rely on the fruits of the mangrove forest (fish, crabs and honey) to survive.

Map of the Sundarbans

Map of the Sundarbans, India and Bangladesh




The rising sea

Sea-level rise in the Sundarbans is double the global average. Over the last 30 years, the region has lost an area equivalent to the size of Manchester. Much of the remaining land has become salinated and unfit even for subsistence farming.

Scientists predict that much of the Sundarbans could be under water in 15 to 25 years. If the 13 million people living in the Sundarbans have to migrate, this would be the largest migration in the history of mankind.

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Tigers paw – tiger conservation

The tiger habitat

‘If, ultimately, the land shrinks – the habitat shrinks – these tigers will lose their land.’

Joydip Kundu, conservationist, Society for Heritage and Ecological Researches.

India’s Project Tiger estimates there are fewer than 100 wild Royal Bengal tigers left in the Sundarbans. The World Wildlife Fund says there are more, but predicts that most will be lost because of rising sea levels by the end of this century.

The fisherman – Rabi Majumdar

The fisherman

‘As the tiger jumped, he caught hold of my head and pulled me backwards. The whole world became dark. I could no longer see anything as my head was inside the tiger’s  mouth.’

When he was seized by a tiger, Rabi Majumdar tried to re-enact an old folk tale his father had told him, about a woman who poked a crocodile in the eye. By jabbing his fingers into the palate of the tiger’s mouth, Rabi was able to free himself.

Rabi Majumdar
His wife – Sabitri Mondal

The wife

‘On the night he went fishing, I dreamt that my husband was attacked by a tiger. In the morning, I wanted to go near the river where I would get some news. I didn’t say to anyone about my prediction, as others would blame me for bringing bad luck.’

After the accident, Sabitri Mondal was forced to send her 13-year-old son to Kolkata to earn money. ‘He didn’t want to catch fish after his father’s accident.’

Sabitri Mondal
The fisherman – Anath Seal

The fisherman

‘When the tiger came running, I had a stick in my hand that I used to hit him. I hit the tiger twice but the stick broke. The tiger was salivating in front of me. Next, he gave me a slap on the side of my face and then he caught my head with both paws.’

Anath Seal
His wife – Minati Roy

The wife

Before he was attacked and killed by a tiger, Minati Roy’s husband spent two days worshipping a female deity, Bonbibi, believed to protect fishermen and honey collectors.

‘On that day, I was not in a good mood. Some unexpected occurrence or bad news was going to come to my heart, I could predict it. I had an anxiety feeling inside. Some misfortune is going to happen.’

Despite her loss, Minati says: ‘The tigers are protecting the forest. If there are no forests, no trees, there would be no life.’

Minati Roy
The fisherman – Ranjit Biswas

The fisherman

‘Suddenly the tiger came from behind and gave a bite with his mouth to my hip. I fell to the ground. He held me down for 10 minutes. I tried to free myself by holding his mouth. Then I realised that I am being pulled backwards. That is when I called for help. I was in hospital for a month.’

Ranjit Biswas
One Million Ways campaign logo

Our future: One Million Ways

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As well as helping communities to develop sustainable ways to feed their families, Christian Aid campaigns at a regional, national and international level to ensure decision makers take action on climate change.

Help us reach a million actions to tackle climate change, and challenge politicians to match your efforts.

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