A notorious tiger poacher thought to have killed at least 70 of the endangered big cats has been arrested in Bangladesh after a 20-year hunt.
Habib Talukder – known as Tiger Habib – was finally caught on Saturday following a tip-off, after several previous arrest warrants had been issued for him, police said.
He operated in the vast Sundarbans mangrove forest, on the border between India and Bangladesh, home to the world’s largest population of Bengal tigers which are unique among big cats in being able to live and hunt in the brackish water of the mangrove forests and are adept swimmers. Only a few thousand remain in the wild.
Black market traders sell their pelts, bones and even penises in China and around the globe to communities who think they have magical powers.
“He was on the run for a long time,” police chief Saidur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune. “He’s a dangerous man who could fight tigers alone inside the forest.”
The 50-year-old Habib Talukder started his career collecting honey from bees in the forest.
Honey hunter Abdus Salam told reporters that the locals “equally respect him and are scared of him”. Because of this, villagers would hide and protect him when police tracker teams came looking for him.
Officer Abdul Mannan told the Dhaka Tribune that both the police and the forestry department had tried to arrest Habib Talukder for years.
“He secretly went into the Sundarbans and hunted wild animals despite being banned from entering the forest long ago,” he told the paper. “He has been carrying out these criminal activities even though there are multiple cases against him. Some powerful gangs are involved in this.”
Bangladesh tiger census data released in 2018 showed numbers in the Sundarbans had risen to 114 that year from a record low of 106 in 2015.
Wildlife charity WWF released data last year suggesting that after rapid declines over the past decades, endangered tiger populations were making a “remarkable” comeback around the world.