It took more than two decades, but police forces in Bangladesh were finally able to track down a notorious poacher who is believed to have killed at least 70 endangered Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris). Habib Talukder, known as Tiger Habib, was captured last Saturday near the massive Sundarbans Forest on the border between India and Bangladesh.
The poacher was found by the police thanks to a tip. He was living in a village right next to the forest and would flee whenever officers raided the area. The forest was his hunting ground, as it’s home to one of the world’s largest populations of Bengal tigers, whose numbers Have been declining due to poaching, habitat destruction and fragmentation.
Local police chief Saidur Rahman told the daily Dhaka Tribune that arrest warrants had been issued for the poacher earlier in three cases. “He was on the run for a long time,” Rahman said. The poacher had earlier confessed to the Forest Department to killing 70 tigers, which put him on the most wanted fugitive list by the police and the Forest Department.
“He secretly entered the Sundarbans and hunted wild animals despite being banned from entering the forest long ago. He has been carrying out these criminal activities even though there are multiple cases against him… some powerful gangs are involved in this,” Abdul Mannan, a station officer at the Sharankhola forest range, told Dhaka Tribune.
Habib Talukder is believed to have started his career as a poacher by collecting honey from bees in the forest, expanding later on to tigers and other animals. Honey hunter Abdus Salam told the AFP news agency that the locals "equally respect him and are scared of him,” describing him as a local legend. He would sell the pelt and bones of the tigers to black market traders.
Sharankhola police, acting on a tip-off, arrested Habib Talukder, 50, in the early hours of Saturday from Madhya Sonatola village, adjacent to the forest, under Southkhali union.https://t.co/wVc59Du48u
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Today, wild Bengal tigers live in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal. And while there are more than any other tiger subspecies on the Indian subcontinent, the populations are endangered. Conservation efforts are working to some degree, but their habitats have been largely affected over the past 50 years due to human activities in the region.
Fewer than 4,000 mature individuals of Bengal tigers now remain in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – which classifies them as “endangered” in the Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN currently carries out a conservation program in 12 countries to better protect the landscapes where the tigers live.
A study by WWF last year found that Bengal tigers were making a “remarkable comeback” thanks to conservation efforts in India, China, Nepal, Russia and Bhutan. Nepal saw its population of tigers increasing from 121 in 2009 to 235 in 2019, WWF found. And it’s the same situation in other countries, with increasing numbers.
There are two recognized subspecies of Bengal tiger: the continental (Panthera tigris tigris) and the Sunda (Panthera tigris sondaica). They are solitary animals that oversee a large territory, whose size is determined by the availability of prey. They are hunted illegally because their skin and some body parts are considered useful for traditional Asian medicine.