The Man-Eating Tigers of Sundarbans

Overview

Along the Bay of Bengal between India and Bangladesh stretches a strange and beautiful flooded forest. This enchanted forest is called the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve and is home to more tigers than anywhere else on earth. There are said to be some five hundred tigers here. Nowhere else do tigers live in a mangrove swamp. And nowhere else do healthy tigers routinely hunt people. Yet about three hundred people are killed each year by the tigers of Sundarbans. No one knows why.

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Overview

Along the Bay of Bengal between India and Bangladesh stretches a strange and beautiful flooded forest. This enchanted forest is called the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve and is home to more tigers than anywhere else on earth. There are said to be some five hundred tigers here. Nowhere else do tigers live in a mangrove swamp. And nowhere else do healthy tigers routinely hunt people. Yet about three hundred people are killed each year by the tigers of Sundarbans. No one knows why.

The Man-Eating Tigers of Sundarbans is a mystery story, but it is also a story about science and myth, about people and tigers, and about different ways of seeing the natural world. Sy Montgomery traveled to Sundarbans searching for answers to the mysteries surrounding these tigers. She listened to what scientists had to say about the unusual tiger behavior and to the stories of the villagers who revere the very animals who hunt them.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Immediately captures attention with a fresh, engaging style that turns scientific study into a page-turning mystery. . . . A fascinating topic meets a talented storyteller.” Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

Montgomery's personal enthusiasm and knowledge extend nicely into the book's informative concluding elements that include fast facts, a glossary of Bengali phrases, a list of related organizations, and comments on the photographs." School Library Journal

From The Critics
The title "Man-Eating Tigers" taps into our curiosity and strange fascination with gore, but this nonfiction book offers much more--it provides a unique, powerful way to look at the mystery of science and more importantly the strength and importance of the natural world and our connections to it. In The Man-Eating Tigers of Sundarbans, Sy Montgomery does not provide all of the answers. Rather she allows us to take the journey to the Bay of Bengal where approximately five hundred Bengal tigers live in a flooded mangrove forest. We become explorers, scientists and detectives as the book poses the question: Why do these tigers eat men when most healthy tigers from other places won't? Montgomery does not give her opinion. Instead she helps us to look at the problem from a wide variety of perspectives. She goes well beyond a scientific view and looks at the relationship between the people and the wildlife with whom they coexist. We become active participants in finding the solution to this mystery as we first journey into the forest to look for clues. After telling the story of one man's demise in the jaws of a tiger, Montgomery introduces the unique and mysterious habitat where these tigers live, providing interesting information on the plants, forests, waterways, and wildlife that share these "forests of ocean" with the tigers. She provides basic natural history on tigers and offers a respectful approach to this endangered species. We learn that tigers outside of Sandurbans become "man-eaters" only when they are sick or injured. So why are the tigers of Sundurbans different? After describing how scientists study tigers and what they have discovered about tiger behavior, Montgomery listsseveral of the scientists' hypotheses explaining possible reasons for Sundarbans' tigers unique food preferences. Refreshingly, Montgomery then turns to "What the Villagers Say." So often, scientific studies are conducted with no regard to the local people who may know the most about a particular animal or habitat. Montgomery provides background on the people of Sundarbans. Locals tell their personal stories of the man-eating tigers. Montgomery points out the consistencies and truths in these stories. Although the people of Sundarbans are afraid of tigers, most would never hurt a tiger because of their religious beliefs. They worship gods that are connected to both the tigers and the forest. As a result, they protect the tiger and its habitat. Fear also keeps people from going into the tiger reserve illegally. "Sometimes ," the author argues, "what is true is hidden, as in a riddle. Here's one: when are man-eating tigers really life-saving protectors? You guessed it: when they guard the forest on which everyone depends." The people and their beliefs are important to the conservation of this species. At the end, there is a short list of sentences translated into Bengali, the native language. There are also tiger statistics and further resources, including books and organizations concerned with tiger preservation. The wonderful photographs by Eleanor Briggs are not only of tigers, but also their habitat, other wildlife, the local people, and these people's artwork and religious images. The Man-eating Tigers of Sundarbans transports us to another place--an exotic place; we become part of the story, part of the mystery, and in the end, we are allowed to draw our own conclusions. 2001, Houghton Mifflin, $16.00. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Cori Trudeau SOURCE: The Five Owls, September/October 2001 (Vol. 16, No. 1)
Children's Literature
To find the greatest number of tigers in the world you must travel to a mangrove swamp in the Bay of Bengal between Indian and Bangladesh. Here in the deep mud of the riverbank and the thick, gnarled roots of the dense vegetation are the footprints of tigers known to kill over 300 people each year. There is much mystery and speculation surrounding these tigers, who are as revered as they are feared. By observing the tigers, talking to the villagers and listening to their stories, which are steeped in legend, scientists are trying to uncover the hidden truths about these magnificent beasts. The fascinating and compelling text reads like a well-crafted mystery and is complemented by stunning photos. While the research has revealed valuable information, more remains to be discovered and careful readers may be encouraged to reflect and offer theories of their own. 2001, Houghton, $16.00. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-These unusual creatures of the Sundarbans-a mangrove forest stretching along the Bay of Bengal in India and Bangladesh-really do hunt and eat humans. Montgomery invites readers to journey with her to the region to better understand these elusive animals. "And here you-leave cars behind. You can get to the tigers' forest only by boat." She introduces several knowledgeable residents who describe their experiences. The author also explains many aspects of the rapid loss of the world's tiger population, the little understood behavior of this region's tigers, the lives and beliefs of local people, and the special features of the habitat and its role in supporting a chain of animal life. The largely conjectural knowledge of the tigers is handled carefully, but the lack of immediacy may tax the patience of readers expecting the more dramatic encounter with tigers suggested by the title and cover photo. The mysterious creatures are well concealed by the mangroves, and the few appearing here in handsome photographs are actually in captivity. There are also fine views of other animals, the natural setting, and the people. Montgomery's personal enthusiasm and knowledge extend nicely into the book's informative concluding elements that include fast facts, a glossary of Bengali phrases, a list of related organizations, and comments on the photographs.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The author of The Snake Scientist (not reviewed) takes the reader along on another adventure, this time to the Bay of Bengal, between India and Bangladesh to the Sundarbans Tiger Preserve in search of man-eating tigers. Beware, he cautions,"Your study subject might be trying to eat you!" The first-person narrative is full of helpful warnings: watch out for the estuarine crocodiles,"the most deadly crocodiles in the world" and the nine different kinds of dangerous sharks, and the poisonous sea snakes, more deadly than the cobra. Interspersed are stories of the people who live in and around the tiger preserve, information on the ecology of the mangrove swamp, myths and legends, and true life accounts of man-eating tigers. (Fortunately, these tigers don't eat women or children.) The author is clearly on the side of the tigers as she states:"Even if you added up all the people that sick tigers were forced to eat, you wouldn't get close to the number of tigers killed by people." She introduces ideas as to why Sundarbans tigers eat so many people, including the theory,"When they attack people, perhaps they are trying to protect the land that they own. And maybe, as the ancient legend says, the tiger really is watching over the forest—for everyone's benefit." There are color photographs on every page, showing the landscape, people, and a variety of animals encountered, though glimpses of the tigers are fleeting. The author concludes with some statistics on tigers, information on organizations working to protect them, and a brief bibliography and index. The dramatic cover photo of the tiger will attract readers, and the lively prose will keep them engaged. Anappealingscienceadventure. (Nonfiction. 9-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618077045
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 2/26/2001
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 64
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 890L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Sy Montgomery

Sy Montgomery is an author, naturalist, newspaper columnist, scriptwriter, and radio commentator who writes award-winning books for children as well as adults. She lives in Hancock, New Hampshire. Visit her website at symontgomery.com.

Sy Montgomery and photographer Nic Bishop won the Sibert Medal in 2011 for their collaborative work on Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot , another Scientist in the Field title.

Good To Know

In our exclusive interview with Montgomery, she revealed a few fun anecdotes:

"My companion pig, Christopher Hogwood, age 12, lost 60 pounds on his new diet and now weighs in at a trim 690 pounds."

"My first known act of Eco-Conscience: I was sent home from kindergarten for biting a little boy who had pulled the legs off a daddy longlegs. I would do it again today."

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    1. Hometown:
      Hancock, New Hampshire
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 7, 1958
    2. Place of Birth:
      Frankfurt, Germany
    1. Education:
      Syracuse University: B.A., Newhouse School of Public Communications, 1979; B.A., College of Arts and Sciences, 1979

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