Bangladesh Police have shot six suspected tiger poachers in a forest which is home to endangered Royal Bengal tigers.
The police found three adult tiger skins at the scene, with six dead bodies, following a gun battle with a gang of alleged poachers in the southwestern Sundarbans mangrove forest.
Due to firearms found, the police say the suspected tiger poachers died during the raid.
A local police official, Harendra Nath Sarkar, says 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.”
However 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).
The 10,000 sq km (3,860 sq mile) forest straddles Bangladesh and India. It is the largest and continuous mangrove forest in the world.
A recent survey, which used video cameras to track the forest’s tiger population, reveals it is home to far fewer tigers than previously thought.
Whereas in 2004, a census based on collecting tigers’ paw prints estimated there were some 440 tigers living in the Sundarbans forest.
The year-long survey, ending in April 2015, found between 83 and 130 tigers remain- a sharp decline from the 440 animals recorded 10 years ago.
Hunting events thrust into the spotlight after Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer paid around £35,000 to hunt and kill the famous Zimbabwean ion Cecil, sparking global outrage.
The researcher who studied Cecil the lion for most of his life has now demanded for lion hunting to be banned.
Leader of the Hwange lion project, Brent Stapelkamp, says no amount of money can act as compensation for losing such a creature, adding: “My personal feeling is lion hunting shouldn’t exist. They’re too rare, they’re too sensitive, and the repercussions felt after that hunt far exceed anything in any other species.”
To raise awareness about the plight of endangered animals, Cecil was projected onto New York’s Empire State building earlier this week.