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Activists protest Shell oil drill plan

Environmental activists dressed as tigers demonstrated ...

Environmental activists dressed as tigers demonstrated outside the Shell oil company's annual general meeting in London on Thursday.

Friends of the Earth members in tiger costumes handed out leaflets to shareholders attending the meeting, accusing Shell of planning to drill for oil in the Sundarbans, a vast coastal mangrove forest in Bangladesh, which extends across the border into eastern India.

The area, designated by Unesco as a world heritage site, is of special scientific interest and home to about 350 Royal Bengal tigers, as well as rhinos, spotted swamp deer, water buffalo, and a wide variety of reptiles and birds.

Although Shell has been given the rights to explore for oil and gas in a block of land largely covered by mangrove swamp, the company denies that it has any intention of drilling in the reserved areas of the forest.

A company spokesman said Shell hoped to start on aerial and seismic surveys soon, but only outside the reserved forest area.

Friends of the Earth point out that while only a small part of Shell's area is covered by reserved forest, about three quarters of it has been designated of special importance under the international wetlands convention.

Although initial prospecting can be carried out with little disturbance in swamp areas, actual oil and gas production is much more disruptive. It usually involves cutting access canals for rigs and barges needed to drill the wells, and creates a risk of oil spillages and other pollution.

news.bbc.co.uk