Six tiger poachers shot dead by Bangladeshi police

Police seize three tiger pelts which appeared to be from animals that had been recently killed

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Six alleged tiger poachers have been shot dead by police in a gunfight in the largest stretch of mangrove forest in the world and home to the rare Bengal tiger.

Bangladeshi police seized three tiger pelts which appeared to be from animals that had been recently killed, according to reports.

Harendra Nath Sarkar, a local police official, told the BBC that the gunfight lasted between 15 and 20 minutes.

He said: “We recovered three tiger skins, and five guns and ammunition. From the look and smell of the skins, it seemed that the tigers were killed not more than a week ago”.

However, conflicting reports from local media have said that the poachers were initially arrested by police and later shot dead.

Bangladeshi authorities have bolstered their efforts to curb poaching following news that the local tiger population is in decline.

Last month the government’s wildlife conservationist estimated that current tiger populations in the Sundarbans were between 80 and 130, a huge decline from figures released in 2004 which projected that there were some 440 tigers in the Mangrove habitat. 

Police chiefs said that the Sundarban’s network of rivers and canals was a major attraction for poacher gangs, ABC Australia reported.

They said that poachers "now sell tiger bones, meat and skin for a lot of money."

The sources also added that feeble law enforcement and a lack of monitoring inside the forest had contributed to the rise in poaching.

The 10,000 square kilometre Sundarbans cross Bangladesh and India and are a World Heritage-listed forest and one of the world’s last remaining big cat habitats.

Bengal tigers can be found mainly in India, where there are approximately 2,226 cats across the country. Smaller population inhabit Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar.