A tigress who is believed to have killed more than a dozen people in the last two years has been shot dead in India.
The mother of two 10-month-old cubs, who was known as Avni to animal conservationists and T-1 officially, was tracked down by Borati forest officials in Maharashtra state.
More than 150 people had spent months looking for her including teams of trackers and armed officials on the backs of elephants using infrared cameras, a paraglider, drones and sniffer dogs to capture the man-eating tigress.
The urine of another tigress and perfume were used to lure Avni to her hunters before she was killed, a police official told NDTV.
Friday night’s shooting near the town of Pandharkawda has triggered controversy over the legality of Avni’s killing.
Officials were required to tranquillise and trap the tigress first under a ruling by India’s supreme court.
However, she is said to have attacked the team who found her and she was shot by Ashgar Ali Khan, the son of India’s most famous hunter Nawab Shafath Ali Khan.
#FirstVisuals of 'man-eater' tigress Avni (T1) that was killed in Maharashtra's Yavatmal last night. She had allegedly killed 14 people. Her postmortem will be conducted at Nagpur's Gorewada Rescue Centre. #Maharashtra pic.twitter.com/eH1jDLf511
— ANI (@ANI) November 3, 2018
Principal chief conservator of Forests A.K. Mishra told The Indian Express newspaper the team had managed to shoot a dart tranquilliser into the animal at around 11pm.
“But she charged at the team, forcing Ashgar to shoot in self-defence,” he said. “The tigress lay dead in a single shot.”
However, other Indian media reports contradicted this version of events.
The Times of India quoted sources involved in the hunt as saying the dart had been fired into the tiger’s corpse after the shooting.
Indian media also reported officials had acknowledged that no vet was present during the hunt, as required by the court order.
Jerryl Banait, a vet and activist in Karnataka state who had launched appeals against the order with NGO Earth Brigade Foundation and the National Tiger Conservation Authority, 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 group.
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”.
British actor and animal conservationist Dan Richardson, who had planned to organise and hold a march in London on 11 November, said the fight to save the tiger’s cubs must continue.
“We absolutely must ensure that Avni did not die in vain. She will become an even more powerful force in her tragic, unforgivable death,” he wrote on Facebook.
Avni’s body has been taken to a zoo in the city of Nagpur for a post-mortem.