The Sundarbans is the largest contiguous mangrove forest in the world and the only mangrove forests to support tigers. This region is considered one of the seven most important wetlands globally, and parts of the forests are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its unique and rare wildlife. These forests not only support wildlife but also the livelihoods of millions of people living in the fringes on islands. More than one-third of the Sundarbans population (4.5 million as per Census 2011) depends on collection and sale of fish, crab and honey for their livelihoods. All these livelihood choices often bring the Sundarbans people in conflict with wildlife and cases of tiger attacks are common.
Honey collection in Sundarbans is a seasonal activity that lasts for two to three months every year, during which time traditional honey collectors get an opportunity to make twice the amount of money as compared to their average earnings per month through the year. Every year, the traditional honey collectors risk their lives to reach the most remote parts of the forest to collect one of the best quality honey in the country and in the process, many lose their lives in fatal tiger attacks.
Royal Bee Brothers is working in Jharkhali, Kultali and Nalgora forest range of Sunderbans with cooperative society and local community along with WWF-India and DFO (Sunderbans, 24 Parganas). We are working with the traditional honey collectors of Sundarbans to reduce the risk of their lives during wild honey collection. In collaboration with Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Directorate under Department of Forest, Government of West Bengal, WWF-India has facilitated the traditional honey collectors to place apiary boxes inside the fenced off forest areas of Sundarbans with due permission from the Directorate.
WWF-India has also developed a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for scientific apiary management, in collaboration with district level agricultural extension wing of Indian Council of Agricultural Research. This SOP charts the industry standard procedure of harvesting honey, and traditional honey collectors have followed the SOP for apiary management this year.