Police in Bangladesh shot dead six alleged tiger poachers on Aug. 9 in the world’s largest mangrove forest, CNN reports.
Bangladesh recently cracked down on poachers in Sundarbans National Park after a survey revealed drastically dwindling tiger numbers. In a 45-minute firefight, police stopped a group of poachers in their tracks.
While five officers were injured as a result, all of the poachers were killed. Authorities believe the men to be members of the Ilias Bahini poaching gang, which is generally active in the Bangladesh forest, reports Vice News.
"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," Harendranath Sarker, the local police chief, explained to Agence France-Presse, notes Vice News.
“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,” the police chief told the BBC, as The Independent reports.
The large mangrove forests found within the Sundarbans National Park contain a rarity of animals, including the highly endangered Royal Bengal tiger. These are the only mangrove forests in the world where these tigers are found, according to CNN.
A year-long survey that used cameras within the forest to observe tigers recently concluded earlier in 2015 with shocking results. The government’s wildlife conservationist estimates the tiger population to be somewhere in between 83 and 130 — averaging out to 106. This marks a huge drop for the population, as in 2004, it was estimated that around 440 tigers lived in the forest.
Police in Bangladesh and other experts attribute this drop to poaching. As Sarker explained, the Sundarbans in particular attract poacher gangs because of the national park’s large network of rivers and canals.
"They now sell tiger bones, meat and skin for a lot of money," Sarker said. The police chief also admitted that officials had not been doing enough to protect the endangered tigers.
Authorities hope to change that. As Sarker revealed, police plan to provide more protection to the big cats by more closely monitoring forest cameras as well as bolstering law enforcement, The Independent reports.