Six Alleged Tiger Poachers Killed: Bangladesh Police Say Suspects Started Shooting

Police in Bangladesh reported that six tiger poachers were killed Sunday in a shootout in the Sundarbans forest reserve. After arresting seven men on suspicion of poaching endangered Bengal tigers, the police were taking their captives along on the search for a cache of guns and tiger hides. Suddenly, other poachers nearby opened fire on the police, and the arrested men were killed in the crossfire. According to the Xinhua News Agency, several other suspected poachers escaped.

Chief of Police Harendranath Sarker spoke with the French Press Agency AFP.

The poachers first fired at us as we raided their den at Mandarbaria canal in the forest. We fired back. Six poachers were killed in the gunfight,” he said.

The LA Times reported that five of the Bangladeshi police officers were wounded in the gun battle. After the raid, authorities found three pelts from recently shot tigers. They also confiscated guns at the poachers’ hideout.

Tiger meat, skin, and bones are all trafficked by the gangs of poachers. In addition to adult tiger skins, which may be 10 or 11 feet long, live tiger cubs have been confiscated from poachers in the recent past.

The Sundarbans mangrove forest is a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is a refuge for the rare Royal Bengal tiger. According to Sky News, a survey completed in the spring of 2015 showed that there are only between 83 and 130 of the tigers left in the forest. Scientists took a year to gather the data using strategically placed video cameras. The study is thought to be more accurate than previous surveys, in which estimates were made using paw prints and other evidence. The worldwide population of Bengal tigers is now thought to be fewer than 2,500 animals. If poaching can be reduced, it may be possible to prevent the disappearance of these beautiful animals, which are now feared to be on the verge of extinction.

Conserving the Bengal tiger population has been a continuing challenge over the years. The mangrove delta is on the border of India and Bangladesh. In both of these regions, which have relatively low per capita incomes, the profits from poaching tiger skins can be a real temptation. Some of the population have mixed feelings about the tigers, since locals who fish and hunt in the protected area have been attacked and killed by tigers from time to time.

The fate of the tiger poachers who were killed, though tragic, may help to deter other people from harming the regal Bengal tigers that still roam wild in South Asia.

[Image credited to Koshy Koshy via Free Stock]