Bangladesh police kill six alleged tiger poachers

A Bengal tiger, pictured in India Image copyright AP
Image caption Bengal tiger populations in Bangladesh have slumped

Six suspected tiger poachers have been shot dead in a gunfight with Bangladeshi police at a hideout in the world's largest mangrove forest.

Police seized three tiger pelts which they said were from animals that appeared to be freshly killed.

The Sundarbans in south-east Bangladesh are home to the rare Bengal tiger.

A recent survey found that just over 100 were living there - a sharp decline from the 440 animals recorded 10 years ago.

Experts say the dramatic slump is down to more accurate surveying methods, but also to rampant poaching.

A local police official, Harendra Nath Sarkar, told the BBC that during a raid, the alleged poachers began shooting and the officers fired back.

"The gunfight went on for about 15 to 20 minutes. 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," he said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Sundarbans are made up of 10,000 sq km of forest straddling India and Bangladesh

But some local media cast doubt on the police's version of events, saying the suspects had been arrested before being shot dead.

Bangladesh has stepped up efforts against poachers since the news of the tiger population's decline.

There are now fewer than 2,300 Bengal tigers left in the wild - mainly in India and Bangladesh, but with smaller populations in Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar (Burma).

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