Four suspected poachers were killed in an encounter with the security forces in the southwestern Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest and home to endangered Royal Bengal tigers, officials said on Wednesday.
A team of the Bangladesh's elite force, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), were patrolling the Chadpai Range of the Sundarbans last night, when they saw some armed men on a boat, a spokesman for the RAB said.
"The RAB personnel challenged the suspected poachers, who opened fire on the security forces, sparking a gun-battle, in which four persons were killed," the spokesman said.
Commander of the RAB's media wing, Mufti Mahmud, said they presume that those killed were the members of a gang engaged in "poaching, extortion and abductions".
"During the search of their boat, the RAB personnel also found weapons and ammunition," Mahmud said.
The Sundarbans is the abode to endangered famous Royal Bengal tiger and Irrawaddy dolphins and a large chunk of the forest is a UNESCO world heritage site.
According to security forces, several gangs have emerged there and pose a threat to the wildlife.
At least 100 alleged poachers have reportedly been killed in encounters with the RAB in the past one decade, while around 200 surrendered their weapons to police in exchange for cash, legal aid and mobile phones.
As per the latest survey, concluded last week, the number of Royal Bengal tigers grew for the first time in years to 114.
A 2015 tiger census has found their number in the 10,000 square-kilometre Sunderbans to be just over 100, a drastic fall from estimated 440 in 2004.
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