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September 14 - 20, 2012

 

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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

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Poaching returns to world-famous
Sunderbans Indian Tiger Reserves

Though there has been no official report of tiger poaching
in the Indian Sunderbans since 2008, reports of tiger
body parts being found is not new in the West Bengal

SPECIAL REPORT BY XINHUA CORRESPONDENT Arup Chanda

KOLKATA, INDIA (Xinhua) -- An international gang of poachers from Southeast Asia is now back in business at the world- famous mangroves of Sunderbans, a well-known tiger reserve spanning the Indo-Bangladesh borders.

This was discovered last month when forest guards found a dead tiger cub on the Indian side.

A few days later, three cubs were also recovered by Bangladeshi forest guards from poachers before they could be smuggled out of the reserve.

The poachers were arrested.

The arrest was only the tip of the iceberg after it was revealed that an elaborate network of wildlife thieves are still operating in the Sunderbans area and their captured animals smuggled to Malaysia.

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Lone tiger taking an early morning swim in the Sunderbans National Park, a well-known tiger reserve spanning the Indo-Bangladesh borders. S.N.P. PHOTO - NIKHIL DEVASAR

Because of coordinated efforts of forest guards on both sides of Indo-Bangladesh border, poaching in the Sunderbans had almost died away.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority of India (NTCA) has earlier ordered an in-depth investigation into the unnatural death of the cub.

The body of the dead cub was found floating on Raimangal River, the border between India and Bangladesh.

They soon sniffed a link between the dead cub and the three cubs two males and one female seized by Bangladeshi forest guards in Halde Bunia forests, just across the river in Bangladesh and less than 2 kilometers from the Indian side.

That led to the arrest of two poachers who were on their way to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

The two confessed that the cubs were about to be smuggled to Malaysia.

The twin incidents came nearly a year after India signed two memorandums of understandings (MoUs) with Bangladesh on the conservation of Royal Bengal tigers in the Sunderbans reserve.

The MOU, however, seems to be only on paper since poaching has returned to the reserve.

Wildlife experts said that a big network of poachers in South East Asia with links to the Indo-Bangladesh poachers are still operating in the thick mangroves and have only slowed down during the massive anti-poaching campaign waged by the two countries.

Sudipto Dutt, member of India’s eastern state of West Bengal’ s wildlife board, said it was possible that the poachers tried to kill the tigress in vain and could not capture all the cubs.

“One cub might have separated from its mother and died later.

"Since the place is very close to the Indian border, the body might have floated to the Indian side.

"A simple DNA analysis of the cubs can solve the riddle,” Dutt said.

Monirul Khan, associate professor of zoology at Jahangirnagar University in Dhaka, called for a joint probe into the death of the cub.

He said that the Halde Bunia forest in Bangladesh where the cubs were captured, as confessed by one of the arrested poachers, is very close to the Indian border.

“It’s hardly a kilometer or two from the Indian forests of Arbesi and separated only by the Raimangal.

With poachers striking so close to the border, there should be joint probe to track the origin of the crime,” he said.

Yusuf Ali, chief conservator of forests in Bangladesh, also said that one of the arrested poachers has confessed that his companion was killed after he was attacked by the tigress.

But the mastermind of the poaching syndicate is still on the loose.

“It is important that we get the people behind this poaching operation,” Ali said.

Though there has been no official report of tiger poaching in the Indian Sunderbans since 2008, reports of tiger body parts being found is not new in the West Bengal.

In 2010-11 alone, five tiger skulls and four tiger skins were seized in the state.

Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve director Pradeep Vyas said:

“It is true that there are two MoUs between the countries, but field level implementation is yet to be done.

"Unless that is done, we cannot approach the Bangladeshi officials.”

Poaching and smuggling of wildlife from the Sunderbans have been going on.

A few months ago the West Bengal police seized a huge consignment of rare species of turtles and sea horses meant to be smuggled to West Asia.

In March, in a joint raid forest officials and the police seized a trawler and a truck loaded with a consignment of small tortoises and rare species of birds.

On interrogation, the arrested men confessed that the reptiles and birds were about to be brought to a ship anchored in the Bay of Bengal and was set to sail for Thailand.

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