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Tiger poaching sparks Sunderbans ban plan



 The Asian Age, Dhaka, 13th August, 2015


Bangladesh Wildlife officials are mulling a ban on access to the Sundarbans after an alarming rise in poaching of tigers that live in the world's largest mangrove forest rangers said on Wednesday.


Five skins of endangered  Royal Bengal tigers have been seized so far in 2015. Compared to an average of one or two discovered in previous years, Sundarbans top ranger Jahir Uddin Ahmed said.


Its an extremely alarming development, Mr Ahmed said.


The police shot dead six alleged poachers in a gunfight in the Sundarbans on Sunday and seized three skins along with tiger bones and other body parts.


Tiger meat and bones are used in traditional Chinese medicine and fetch high prices.


"We did not find any bullet marks in the skins of the tigers. We apprehend they were poisoned to death. We have to stop this at any cost," Mr Ahmed said.


Forest officials said they were considering the ban in the 10,000 square kilometer forest which straddles Bangladesh and India in a bid to halt the poaching .


It (access) should be stopped for the sake of tigers, said Jahidul Kabir, who is charged with looking after the Unesco World Heritage listed part of the forest.


"If this trend in poaching continues, there will not be a single tiger in the Sundarbans after ten years, " Mr Kabir said.



Authorities fear poachers are hiding among the up to 6,000 locals who enter the forest every day for their livelihoods, including to fish and collect wild honey.


Concern about the tigers spiked after officials said in July that the number of big cats in the Sundarbans has nosedived to 106 from an estimated 440 a decade ago.


Bengal tigers live mainly in India, where nation-wide there are is an estimated population of 2,226.