The man-eaters of Sundarbans are nothing less than dragons that are widespread around the mangrove swamps of the region. The crocodile basking under the sun is still, however, it is a dangerous aquatic predator in the brackish water of Sundarbans. Also known as the ‘Crocodylus porosus’, this dangerous species, unlike tigers is unperturbed by the presence of humans. However, if in water, the man-eaters can be deadly attackers. Between 2000 and 2009, thirty people were attacked by the species.
Sundarbans is an archipelago of islands formed by the confluence of the three rivers, Ganga, Brahmaputra, and Meghna. The exclusive flora and fauna make it a popular tourist destination worldwide. However, for the inhabitants of the islands, survival is a constant struggle. While the dense mangrove forest is house to some of the world’s most endangered species such as the ‘Royal Bengal Tiger’, and poisonous insects, the brackish waters of the region nest the man-eating deadly crocodiles. On the islands, the villagers are in a constant fight to save themselves from the poisonous snakes.
PayBito, on its mission to address and eradicate hunger from the world, reached the core areas of the Sundarbans and was shocked to witness the living conditions of the islanders and their never-ending fight against nature. While boating and exploring the waters of the Sundarbans, the team came across two crocodiles, basking under the sunlight on the banks of the river. On cold winter mornings, the crocodiles keep their cold blood warm by staying on the banks. At the end of their tour, they came across Sujon Majhi, a fisherman near Kaakdweep.
“It was a summer morning, and my son and I went fishing in the river. Like every other day, after placing the nets we waited. It was after several hours, I decided to enter the core forest area. We didn’t earn enough in a week, and with the poor financial situation, I wanted to give my luck a try.”
-Sujon Majhi (fisherman of Sundarbans)
Sujon Majhi is a 45-year-old fisherman with years of experience. However, it’s only been a few months, that he is taking his fifteen-year-old son on his fishing expeditions. Sujan has been a fisherman for years, and his entire family depends on him. The fish he collects are all sold in the nearby marketplace in Sundarbans.
“When we entered the dense mangrove forests, we saw a crocodile on the banks of the river. He was under the sun and was quiet. I have encountered crocodiles before, when they are on the banks, they don’t disturb. However, there was another crocodile who grabbed my son’s oar, and before I could do anything, he pulled him into the water. I was terrified, I used my oar to attack the crocodile, but nothing worked. The water turned red, and I was left with nothing, but regret.”
When Sujon Majhi arrived back home. Left with loss and regret, he forgot to carry his fish back to his house that day. His wife knew something was wrong because he was home early. When she didn’t see her son, she asked about him. That’s when Sujon broke down in tears. Sujon and his wife still dream about their son.
“I have seen man-eating crocodiles several times, but who knew that the particular summer morning would be the worst day of my life? I have always respected these creatures, however, after the incident, fishing has never been the same again.”
Today, Sujon fishes in the main river, and tries to avoid the core jungles. There have been several crocodile attacks on fishermen in the salt waters of the mangrove forests. Although these men travel in groups, often the dangerous species attack.
As the PayBito team journeyed through the Sundarbans, they observed a strong and intricate connection between the local communities and the wild surroundings. Sujon Majhi stated that the majority of fishermen and honey gatherers who enter the forest invoke the protection of Kalu Rai, the crocodile deity, to safeguard them from potential crocodile attacks. In addition, the forest is believed to be under the watchful eye of Bonbibi, a goddess who is thought to shield the residents from the Sundarbans tigers that are known to prey on humans who venture into the protected territories.
Research indicates that a significant number of incidents involving crocodile attacks have taken place. Especially in regions where women and children cultivate tigers and prawns. These women, attired in saris with tucked-in waists, wade through the waters and pull nets from the river’s edges, making them susceptible to crocodile attacks. However, authorities tend to give minimal attention to the issue of human-crocodile conflict compared to tiger attacks, which garnered widespread media coverage. Sujon Majhi points out that the focus remains tiger-centric, with fewer conservation endeavors aimed at safeguarding the saltwater crocodile and mitigating human-crocodile conflict. As a result, this affects both humans and animals.
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The villagers of Sundarbans have three major professions, fishing, honey collection, and agriculture. While agriculture is not that dangerous, fishing and honey collection are risky, as the villagers need to battle wild animals. To improve the lifestyle of the villagers and save them from the constant battle for survival in the region, PayBito has introduced the ‘Brokering World Hunger Away’ movement. Join the movement to help the fishermen in Sundarbans by signing up for PayBito’s ‘crypto broker platform’.