Royal Bengal tiger

Bangladesh police have arrested a suspected wildlife poacher believed to have killed at least 70 endangered tigers in more than two decades, officials said on Tuesday.

The poacher identified as Habib Talukder, 50, was sent was arrested on May 29 from his home adjacent to the Sundarbans mangrove forest, local police chief Saidur Rahman said.

Wanted in a number of cases filed under the wildlife conservation law, Talukder, who was locally known as ‘Tiger Habib’ for his hunting skills, had been on the run for a long time, Rahman said.

He might have links with gangs operating in the Sundarbans, spanning between Bangladesh and India, for poaching wild animals and profiting from selling their pelts, bones, teeth and raw meat on the black market, the officer said.

Talukder began his career as a wild honey collector in the mangrove forest, and eventually become a wildlife hunter in course of time, forest official Joynal Abadin said.

The man, who frequently ventured into the forest despite a ban on him, is formally charged for the hunting of three tigers and five deer, the official said.

But, Talukder told locals that he had hunted as many as 70 big cats since he had first killed a tiger in his mid 20s, Abadin said.

“We could not verify his claim yet,” he said.

Bangladesh’s Forest Department study in 2019 found a total of 114 Bengal tigers in its part of Sundarbans, a Unesco heritage site.

But their population registered a record low of 106 in 2015 from 440 in 2004, according to previous surveys.

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