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Bangladesh creates anti-poaching police force

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Bangladesh is set to launch a new police force to protect wildlife in response to a sharp rise in poaching and exotic animal smuggling, the government’s chief conservationist said yesterday.
The 300-member Wildlife Crime Control Unit will be deployed in July as part of a USD 36 million World Bank-funded project aimed at protecting native endangered species and their habitats, Tapan Kumar told AFP.
“It’s the first time we have created a specific force to combat wildlife poachers who have become increasingly sophisticated,” he said, adding that a recent increase in wildlife smuggling was “alarming”.
Most of the unit will be stationed in the Sundarbans – the world’s largest mangrove forest and home to the critically endangered Royal Bengal Tiger – and will be equipped with modern weaponry and 38 patrol boats, he said.
“Many criminal gangs are now using the Sundarbans as their den. We cannot tackle them due to a lack of patrol units. Recently, we arrested a poacher with the largest haul of illegal tiger parts in decades,” Kumar said.
The poacher, who was arrested in February with three tiger skins and a large cache of tiger bones in an undercover sting operation, confessed to using poisoned pig carcasses as a trap to kill tigers.
Bangladesh says some 450 tigers now live in the Sundarbans, which straddles Bangladesh and India, although conservationists say this is an overestimate.
Officials are also concerned that wildlife smuggling is increasing. Thai customs authorities announced last week that they had seized 450 endangered star tortoises smuggled into the country on a flight from Bangladesh.
Tapan Kumar said part of the World Bank aid would be spent on building wildlife tracking units at the country’s airports, ports and land borders.
According to the forest department, eight animal species have become extinct in Bangladesh in recent decades and almost all its native wildlife is now classed as critically endangered due to poaching and other threats.

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