Tigress Avni shot after she attacked forest staff: Maharashtra Forest Minister Mungantiwar

Tigress Avni shot after she attacked forest staff: Maharashtra Forest Minister Mungantiwar

Tigress Avni shot after she attacked forest staff: Maharashtra Forest Minister Mungantiwar

Known as T1 but nicknamed Avni, the tigress has dragged away several villagers by the neck and with her cubs, devoured large parts of them, The New York Times reported.

The state forest department had hired an expert hunter and sharpshooter, and mounted an extensive operation involving almost 200 personnel, trap cameras, drones, a pack of trained sniffer dogs and a hang-glider to trace her, broadcaster NDTV reported.

The Maharashtra Forest Department said on Saturday that a team armed with a tranquilizer gun and firearm had waited for the tiger in a vehicle on a road near the village of Borati.

Avni was shot dead by the shooter Asgar Ali, the son of well-known sharp-shooter Shafat Ali Khan. The secretary of Hyderabad-based Wildlife Tranqui Force (WTF), speaking to Express from Pandharkawada, said all his efforts were to bait the tiger and her cubs to a safe place and tranquillise them and move to a rescue centre.

Friday night's shooting near the town of Pandharkawda has triggered controversy over the legality of Avni's killing. On the plea by Wildlife activist Dr Jerryl Banait and Earth Brigade Foundation, the Nagpur bench of the high court had issued a notice to the Forest Department seeking its stand by October 19.

The Indian branch of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said the tiger slaughter was about "satisfying a hunter's lust for blood".

However disputes quickly erupted after the killing as media reports said the tiger was shot in Yavatmal forest with no attempt to tranquillize her. The forest department, the local government, even the Supreme Court saw it otherwise. Once the team was certain of the tigress' identity after having seen it "for fraction of the time", but "several times", one member, identified as Sheikh, attempted a dart that hit it but the tigress moved back and charged the team which was in an open Gypsy. As an act of self defence, Mr Asghar fired from a distance of about 8-10 m. There were reports that the state government chose to terminate his services after the intervention of Union minister Maneka Gandhi. The tigress had to be shot down to save the lives of forest staff trying to tranquillise her, the minister said. "I am definitely going to take up this case...legally, criminally as well as politically and will take up the matter very strongly with CM Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis", she tweeted.

Shafat Ali Khan, who was first given permission to shoot the tigress, could not be reached on phone for his comments as there was no official word if his son was also allowed to shoot the animal.

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