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Man-eating Tiger killed in India after 150-strong man hunt

Disputes have quickly erupted after the killing with media reporting that the tigress was shot with no attempt to tranquilise her.

Image: Jyoti Kapoor/PA Images

A MAN-EATING TIGER, said to have killed 13 people over two years, has been shot dead in India, sparking controversy over the legality of its killing.

One of India’s most high-profile tiger hunts in decades ended last night when the mother of two 10-month old cubs -  known to hunters as T1 but Avni to wildlife lovers – was shot dead in the jungles of Maharashtra state in Western India. 

A team of more than 150 people had spent months searching for the tiger using a paraglider and dozens of infrared cameras while sharpshooters had ridden on the backs of elephants.

However, disputes quickly erupted after the killing as media reports said the tiger was shot in Yavatmal forest with no attempt to tranquilise her.

India’s Supreme Court had issued a hunting order for the animal – blamed for 13 deaths since June 2016  – in September, ruling that she could be killed if tranquilisers failed. Several appeals were made against the death sentence.

The tiger was killed at night, when tranquilisers are not allowed to be used, according to the Times of India.

The animal is said to have been shot dead by Ashgar Ali Khan, son of India’s most famous hunter Nawab Shafath Ali Khan.

Forestry officials and the hunter did not answer calls to give details of the hunt.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, A.K. Mishra, told The Indian Express newspaper that a forest staffer had managed to dart the tiger with a tranquiliser at around 11.00 pm.

“But she charged at the team, forcing Ashgar to shoot in self-defence,” he said. “The tigress lay dead in a single shot.”

Self-defence or murder?

Mishra’s account was contradicted by other reports, however, while many groups condemned the way the killing was conducted.

The Times of India quoted sources involved in the hunt as saying it looked as though a tranquiliser dart had been put into the tiger’s corpse after the killing. The sources said the dart had not been fired.

Forestry officials acknowledged to Indian media that no vet was present during the hunt, as required by the Supreme Court order.

Jerryl Banait, a vet and activist in Karnataka state who had launched appeals against the order, described the shooting as “cold-blooded murder”.

“Avni was killed illegally satisfying a hunter’s lust for blood,” said the Indian branch of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) group.

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It said India’s Wildlife Protection Act and National Tiger Conservation Authority rules had been flouted, calling for the matter to be “investigated and treated as a wildlife crime”.

The tiger’s body has been taken to a zoo in the city of Nagpur for a post-mortem.

Despite the disputed circumstances, villages around the town of Pandharkawda celebrated the death with relief.

The tigress claimed her first victim, a woman whose body was found in a cotton field, in June 2016. Since then most of the dead were male herders.

India has launched a major campaign to boost tiger numbers. At the last tiger census in 2014 the number had risen to more than 2,200 from a low of less than 1,500.

But urban spread, as the country’s population of 1.25 billion grows, has increasingly eaten into the territory of wild animals.

Endangered elephants and tigers kill on average one person a day, according to government figures.

- © AFP, 2018

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