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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Forester hurt in gunfight with poachers

TNN | Mar 19, 2013, 01.06 AM IST KOLKATA: Two persons - a forest guard and a boatman - were injured in a gunfight between a group of Bangladeshi poachers and the foresters at Khatuajhuri in the Sunderbans on Monday. A forest department official, while confirming the news, said that some Bangladeshi fishermen reached Khatuajhuri after crossing the heavily-guarded Raimangal river and were carrying country-made guns with them. Since Khatuajhuri is close to the border, Bangladeshis often cross over to this side of the mangroves forests for illegal fishing activities and poaching deer. "On Monday, as our forest guards approached the group of people after seeing them moving suspiciously in the forests of Khatuajhuri, the latter suddenly opened fire at our men. A forest guard and a boatman were injured. However, the gunmen managed to cross over to the Bangladeshi side," said a forest department official. While one of the injured was referred to Kolkata for treatment, another is being treated at a local hospital in the Sunderbans. Presence of Bangladeshi pirates and poachers is nothing new in the Sunderbans. Only last year, a group of Bangladeshi pirates abducted some Indian fishermen at Kendo island and demanded ransom. Earlier, there were reports of foreign pirate vessels from Bangladesh and Myanmar entering Indian waters frequently for robbery and exchange of arms and ammunitions. What has taken many conservationists by surprise is the fact that apart from the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve (STR), BSF too has a camp at Khatuajhuri. "Then how could the gunmen manage to cross over to the Indian side?" asked a conservationist. Bangladeshi poachers' involvement was suspected in the Indian Sunderbans after the body of a 2-month-old tiger cub was found floating on Raimangal river, close to the forests of Arbesi, on June 5, last year. "Only five days after this - on June 10 - three cubs, two females and a male, and about two months old were rescued in Bangladesh. The narrow Raimangal river acts as the border between India and Bangladesh. The cubs being smuggled to Malaysia were captured in Halde Bunia forests, just across the river in Bangladesh, less than 2km from the forests on the Indian side," said sources, adding that the dead cub found here might belong to the same litter that was being smuggled to Malaysia. After the tiger poaching case at Jhila in 2008, the last official report of big cat poaching in the mangroves, foresters had suspected that some Bangladeshi deer poachers had shot the tiger in self-defence. A conservationist said that the Bangladeshi poachers are making the best use of the porous Indo-Bangla border. "Since Khatuajhuri is heavily-guarded, exchange of fire is often reported from there. At times, Bangladeshi pirates and poachers have an upper hand since they use sophisticated weapons, compared to those being used by the Indian forest guards," he added.

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