DHAKA — Elite Bangladesh security forces Monday rescued three Bengal tiger cubs after a raid on a house in the capital Dhaka where smugglers were holding the endangered animals before they were to be sold.
Television footage showed the nearly two-month-old cubs playing in an iron cage after a team of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) commandos swooped on the residence and arrested one person.
"The cubs seem to be in sound health," forest department officer Fazlul Hoque told AFP from the scene.
There are just 440 Bengal tigers left in Bangladesh, with about 1,700 in India and a worldwide total of less than 2,500, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
RAB spokesman Commander Mohammad Sohail said the house in the city's Shaymoli area had a number of empty cages, indicating that it was a transit hub for the illegal wildlife trade.
"We believe an organised racket is behind tiger trafficking. They have been illegally catching and selling animals, including reptiles and birds, for years," Sohail told AFP.
Experts said increasingly sophisticated poaching is the biggest threat to the survival of the big cats in the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest straddling Bangladesh and India.
In 2010, the Bangladesh government enacted new laws with stringent punishments to protect wildlife, including the Bengal tiger, but poaching is still rampant.
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