The Sundarbans is the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world. The name Sundarban can be literally translated as "beautiful jungle" or "beautiful forest" in the Bengali language. The name may have been derived from the Sundari trees that are found in Sundarbans in large numbers. Alternatively, it has been proposed that the name is a corruption of Samudraban or Chandra-bandhe But the generally accepted view is the one associated with Sundari trees. The forest lies at the feet of the Ganges and is spread across areas of Bangladesh and West Bengal, India, forming the seaward fringe of the delta. The seasonally-flooded Sundarbans freshwater swamp forests lie inland from the mangrove forests. The forest covers 10,000 km2 of which about 6,000 are in Bangladesh. It became inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1997, but while the Bangladeshi and Indian portions constitute the same continuous ecotope, these are separately listed in the UNESCO world heritage list as the Sundarbans and Sundarbans National Park, respectively. The Sundarbans is intersected by a complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests. The area is known for the eponymous Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), as well as numerous fauna including species of birds, spotted deer, crocodiles and snakes. It is estimated that there are now 500 Bengal tigers and about 30,000 spotted deer in the area. Sundarbans was designated a Ramsar site on May 21, 1992. The fertile soils of the delta have been subject to intensive human use for centuries, and the ecoregion has been mostly converted to intensive agriculture, with few enclaves of forest remaining. The remaining forests, together with the Sundarbans mangroves, are important
habitat for the endangered tiger. Additionally, the Sundarbans serves a crucial function as a protective flood barrier for the millions of inhabitants in and around Kolkata
Sundari tree The Sundarbans flora is characterized by the abundance of Heritiera fomes, Excoecaria agallocha, Ceriops decandra and Sonneratia apetala. A total 245 genera and 334 plant species were recorded by David Prain in 1903.  Since Prain’s report there have been considerable changes in the status of various mangrove species and taxonomic revision of the man-grove flora. However, very little exploration of the botanical nature of the Sundarbans has been made to keep up with these changes. Whilst most of the mangroves in other parts of the world are characterized by members of the Rhizophoraceae, Avicenneaceae or Laganculariaceae, the mangroves of Bangladesh are dominated by the Sterculiaceae and Euphorbiaceae. The Bangladesh mangrove vegetation of the Sundarbans differs greatly from other nondeltaic coastal mangrove forest and upland forests associations. Unlike the former, the
Rhizophoraceae are of minor importance. Differences in vegetation have been explained in terms of freshwater and low salinity influences in the Northeast and variations in drainage and siltation. The Sundarbans has been classified as a moist tropical forest demonstrating a whole mosaic of seres, comprising primary colonization on new accretions to more mature beach forests, often conspicuously dominated by Keora (Sonneratia apetala) and tidal forests. Historically three principal vegetation types have been recognized in broad correlation with varying degrees of water salinity, freshwater flushing and physiography and which are represented in the wildlife sanctuaries: Sundari and Gewa occur prominently throughout the area with discontinuous distribution of Dhundul (Xylocarpus granatum) and Kankra. Among grasses and Palms, Poresia coaractata, Myriostachya wightiana, Imperata cylindrica, Phragmites karka, Nypa fruticans are well distributed. Keora is an indicator species for newly accreted mudbanks and is an important species for wildlife, especially spotted deer (Axis axis). Besides the forest, there are extensive areas of brackish and freshwater marshes, intertidal mudflats, sandflats, sand dunes with typical dune vegetation, open grassland on sandy soils and raised areas supporting a variety of terrestrial shrubs and trees.
The Sundarbans provide a unique ecosystem and a rich wildlife habitat. The Sundarbans were home to approximately 500 Bengal tigers in 2004, one of the largest single populations of tigers. Tiger attacks are frequent in the Sundarbans. Between 100 and 250 people are killed per year. However, owing to various measures taken for safety, there have been no reports of deaths since 2004 in the Indian portion of the Sundarbans.ecent studies revealed that the Bangladesh Sundarbans support diverse biological resources including at least 120 species of commercially important fishes, 270 species of birds, 42 species of mammals, 35 reptiles and eight amphibian species. This represents a significant proportion of the species present in Bangladesh (i.e. about 30% of the reptiles, 37% the birds and 34% of the mammals) and includes a large number of species which are now
extinct elsewhere in the country. Two amphibians, 14 reptiles, 25 aves and five mammals are presently endangered. The Sundarbans is an important wintering area for migrant water birds and is an area suitable for watching and studying avifauna.  Apart from the Royal Bengal Tiger; Fishing Cats, Macaques, Wild Boar, Common Grey Mongoose, Fox, Jungle Cat, Flying Fox, Pangolin, Chital, are also found in abundance in the Sundarbans. The river terrapin (Batagur baska), Indian flap-shelled turtle (Lissemys punctata), peacock soft-shelled turtle (Trionyx hurum), yellow monitor (Varanus flavescens), water monitor (Varanus salvator), Indian python (Python molurus) and the Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) are some of the resident species.
The endangered species that lives within the Sundarbans are Royal Bengal Tiger, Estuarian Crocodile,
River Terrapin (Batagur baska), Olive Ridley Turtle, Gangetic dolphin, Ground Turtle, Hawks Bill Turtle and King Crabs (Horse shoe). Some species such as hog deer (Axis porcinus), water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), swamp deer (Cervus duvauceli), Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus), single horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) and the mugger crocodile or marsh crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) have become extinct in the Sundarbans at the beginning of the last century.
Tiger attacks in the Sundarbans
The Sundarbans are home to approximately 500 Bengal tigers, one of the largest single populations of tigers in one area. These tigers are well-known for the substantial number of people they kill; estimates range from 50-250 people per year. They are not the only tigers who live in close proximity to humans; in Bandhavgarh, villages encircle the tiger reserves, and yet attacks on people are rare. Although attacks were stalled temporarily in 2004 with new precautions, recently attacks have been on the rise. This is particularly due to the devastation on the Bangladeshi side of the swamp caused by Cyclone Sidr which
has deprived tigers of traditional food sources (due to the natural upheaval) and has pushed them over towards the more populated Indian side of the swamp.
A Royal Bengal tiger
The locals and government officials take certain precautions to prevent attacks. Local fishermen will say prayers and perform rituals to the forest goddess, Bonbibi, before setting out on expeditions. Invocations to the tiger god Dakshin Ray are also considered a necessity by the local populace for safe passage throughout the Sundarbans area. Fishermen and bushmen originally created masks made to look like faces to wear on the back of their heads because tigers always attack from behind. This worked for a short time, but the tigers quickly realized it was a hoax, and the attacks continued. Government officials wear stiff pads that rise up the back of the neck, similar to the pads of an American football player. This is to prevent the tigers from biting into the spine, which is their favored attack method.
Causes of the attacks
No one is exactly sure why the tigers of the Sundarbans are so aggressive towards humans, but scientists, biologists, and others have speculated about a number of reasons. These include:
Since the Sundarbans is located in a coastal area, the water is relatively salty. In all other habitats, tigers drink fresh water. It is rumored that the saltiness of the water in this area has put them in a state of constant discomfort, leading them to be extremely aggressive. Freshwater lakes have been artificially made but to no avail. The high tides in the area destroy the tiger's urine and scat which serve as territorial markers. Thus, the only way for a tiger to defend its territory is to physically dominate everything that enters. Another possibility is that these tigers have grown used to human flesh due to the weather. Cyclones in this part of India and Bangladesh kill thousands, and the bodies drift out in to the swampy waters, where tigers scavenge them. Another possibility is that the tigers find hunting animals difficult due to the continuous high and low tides making the area marsh-like and slippery. Humans travel through the Sundarbans on boats gathering honey and fishing, making for easy prey. It is also believed that when a person stops to work, the tiger mistakes them for an animal, and has, over time, acquired a 'taste' for the human flesh. It has also been hypothesized that the tigers in this area, due to their secluded habitat, avoided the brunt of the hunting sprees that occurred over the course of the 20th century. Tigers inhabiting the rest of Asia developed a fear of humans
after these events, but tigers in the Sundarbans would never have had reason to stop seeing humans as prey. About 5,000 people frequent the swamps and waterways of the Sundarbans. Fishing boats traverse the area and many stop to collect firewood, honey and other items. In the dark forest, tigers find it easy to stalk and attack men absorbed in their work. Even fishermen in small boats have been attacked due to tigers' strong swimming abilities.
Responses to the attacks
Local villagers, who fear tiger attacks and resent the animal for killing their livestock, sometimes engage in revenge killings. On one occasion, a tiger had attacked and wounded the people in a village in south-west Bangladesh (near the Sundarbans) and frequently preyed upon their livestock. This roused the wrath of the villagers, and the feline became a target for their retribution. Poachers are also responsible for killing tigers in the reserve in an effort to sell them on the black market. The human death rate has dropped significantly due to better management techniques and fewer people are killed each year. Even at the rate of fifty or sixty kills per year, humans would provide only about three percent of the yearly food requirements for the tiger population of the Sundarbans. Therefore, despite the notoriety associated with this area, humans are only a supplement to the tiger's diet; they do not provide a primary food source. Villagers in the area have agreed to occasionally release livestock into the forest in order to provide an alternative food source for the tigers and discourage them from entering the villages. The government has agreed to subsidize the project to encourage village participation.