An elite security force in Bangladesh saved the lives of three Bengal tiger cubs on Monday when they raided a house owned by smugglers. Tracking leads that came from a rumor, the team rescued the cubs before they could be sold.
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) commandos found the nearly two-month-old cubs playing inside an iron cage at the residence of a wildlife trader in the capital city of Dhaka. They arrested one person at the house.
RAB spokesperson Commander Mohammad Sohail said the house had a number of empty cages inside, indicating that it was used for animal trafficking. They found the residence after hunting down leads that stemmed from a rumor about three young cubs being taken from the forest. Officials with the Forest Department dismissed the story as false, but the RAB team decided to follow the trail which ultimately saved the lives of the cubs.
There are just 440 wild Bengal tigers living in Bangladesh and less than 2,500 worldwide, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
In 2010, the Bangladesh government passed strict laws to protect wildlife, including Bengal tigers, but poaching, capturing and trading still flourishes. Experts say poachers have become more sophisticated in their methods and serve as the biggest threat to the survival of the species.
The rescue was the first for tiger cubs in the capital city. The animals were sent to a private mini zoo in Hatirpul to help them gain weight. After being fed human milk, the cubs were suffering from diarrhea and weighed about half of what they should.
Zakirul Farid, veterinarian at the Dhaka Zoo, said the one male and two female cubs were malnourished and dehydrated. by Sharon Seltzer