Six suspected tiger poachers shot dead by police at World Heritage site in Bangladesh

Six suspected tiger poachers have been shot and killed by police at a UNESCO World Heritage site in southwestern Bangladesh, authorities have said.

The alleged poachers are said to have opened fire on police during a raid on their camp in the Sundarbans mangrove forest, home to critically endangered Bengal tigers, on Sunday.

After a 20 minute gunfight, police recovered the bodies of six men from the scene, as well as the pelts of three adult tigers and a handful of firearms.

'We recovered three tiger skins, and five guns and ammunition,' local police official Harendranath Sarker told the BBC.

From the look and smell of the skins, it seemed that the tigers were killed not more than a week ago.'

Some local media reported that the suspects were arrested in different parts of the forest before they were killed, but Mr said they died during the raid.

The 3,860-square-mile Sundarbans forest, located in the Bengal region comprising Eastern India and Bangladesh, is the largest mangrove forest in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Some 440 tigers were recorded in the Sundarbans forest in a 2004 census based on collecting tigers' paw prints, however, a recent in-depth survey found the population to have diminished.

The year-long study, which ended in April 2015, estimated the current tiger population at between 83 and 130, averaging about 106.

Bangladeshi forest officials say the new estimate is more accurate because of the use of video cameras rather than paw prints.They and other experts say poaching is a major reason for the decline of the tiger population.