From man-eater to a resource option, the tigers in Indian Sundarbans seem to have undergone an image makeover over the past one decade as the big cats now provide alternative livelihood to hundreds of people on the delta in West Bengal.

The forest villages in Sundarbans — a delta formed by the confluence of Ganga, Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers in the Bay of Bengal — mostly fall under Joynagar Lok Sabha constituency which has over 8 lakh voters.

As the Sundarbans is set for elections on Saturday, ecotourism guides and tour operators feel a slew of protourism measures such as opening more routes and entry points post elections will not only lead to a rise in footfall but also prevent incidents such as the killing of a guard inside the forest recently.

A good number of villagers, who used to sneak into the woods on illegal fishing trips, now either steer tourism boats, act as nature guides or cook food on boats during photography tours of the mangroves in the delta.

Four human deaths have been reported so far this year, in addition to over 10 last year, from the swampland due to tiger attacks. The figure was 21 in 2022. In all cases, victims had ventured into the core area where fishing is banned. The stats are official, actual figures may be higher.