Tiger shot dead after ‘killing 13 people’ in India

A man-eating tiger in India which is believed to have killed 13 people has been shot dead after a lengthy hunt, officials say. 

The six-year-old tigress, given the name T-1 by Indian rangers, had evaded capture for two years in the jungle of the west-central state of Maharashtra, despite a huge military-style operation.

The hunt, which was led by armed Indian forest guards and police officers, involved round-the-clock surveillance from treetop platforms, more than 100 camera traps, as well as bulldozers to clear away the tall bush of the jungle. 

Five Indian elephants, mounted by sharpshooters had also been deployed for a short while before being withdrawn after one of them killed someone. 

Hunters also used Obsession for Men by Calvin Klein, a cologne which contains a pheromone called civetone, after an experiment in the US suggested it could be used to attract big cats.

According to a statement issued on Saturday by the Maharashtra Forest Department, a team armed with a tranquilliser gun and firearm stationed themselves in a vehicle on a roadside near the village of Borati, after villagers called forest officials on Friday to say they had spotted the tiger prowling the area. 

Later that evening, they identified the tigress and a tranquilliser dart was fired at the animal. Upon being hit, the big cat charged the patrol vehicle but was killed by a single shot from a distance between eight and 10 metres (26-33ft).

“The tigress died on the spot,” the statement said. 

Wildlife activists had campaigned to save the tigeress’ life, arguing against the villagers in the area who said they had been terrorised by T-1. The dispute reached India’s Supreme Court, which ruled that the rangers should try to tranquillise her but said it would not interfere if they were forced to shoot her.

Her body has been taken to Nagpur, a large city nearby where a post-mortem will take place. 

T-1’s first known victim, who was killed in 2016, was an older woman who was found face down in a cotton field with huge claw marks dug into her back. 

Fears heightened in August, after the tigress and her two nine-month-old cubs killed three people in the area around the town of Pandharkawada in the Yavatmal district. 

Farmers and grazers were urged to return early from the fields and forest and to venture out only in groups.

Of the 13 victims she is said to have killed, DNA tests on swabs of tiger saliva from the wounds of seven bodies showed that five of them were inflicted by a female tiger.

Officials believe that she had developed a taste for humans as a number of victims had chunks of flesh bitten off.

One victim, believed to be the 12th, had been standing in the middle of a ring of cattle when he was tugged down by the neck, however none of his cows were touched.

Authorities say they took the decision to hunt T-1 and declared her a “man-eater” as it was extremely rare for a single tiger to have attacked as many humans as she has.

India’s tiger population has soared in recent years, with more than 2,200 big cats, as the country increases its efforts to protect them. As the human population and economy grow in parallel to the number of tigers, the animals have been spilling out of dedicated reserves in search for territory.

There are more than 200 in Maharashtra, but only a third of them, unlike T-1, live in the state’s 60 protected areas, including sanctuaries, natural parks and tiger reserves. 

Concerns have now been raised about the future of T-1’s cubs, and some wildlife activists are questioning whether the decision to use bullets was made too hastily.

An activist who was involved in filing the Supreme Court petition, Jerryl Banait, told The New York Times, that proper protocol was not followed and the tigress should not have been shot. 

“This is a coldblooded murder,” he said.

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