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Maneater of Ooty gunned down

Chennai, Jan. 22: The man-eating tiger that had terrorised villagers around Ooty was shot dead by forest officials today, but not before they had to beat back hundreds of armed villagers who stormed in to join the hunt for the predator.

“The tiger was shot near Kundachappai village by a team of forest officials on Wednesday evening. After being shot, the tiger disappeared. Its body was discovered after about an hour,” Nilgiris district collector P. Shankar said.

The tiger had killed three persons between January 5 and 10. After the third attack, authorities in the Tamil Nadu district had shut down some schools for a few days and closed off Doddabetta Park, a popular tourist spot. Tea estates and fruit and vegetable farms in six villages trimmed work time from eight to five hours so that all workers could return home well before dusk.

This evening, the relief was palpable. “Now we can go back to our normal lives,” said R. Mathan, who works on a farm.

Earlier in the day hundreds of villagers, irked by the lack of results even after a fortnight-long hunt, had stormed into the jungle armed with sticks and sickles to join the search teams. “Nearly 700 people from six villages in and around the area where the attacks took place joined the hunt as we were fed up. We returned home after a couple of hours as police and forest officers asked us to go back,” said Mathan.

Initially, the forest officials had planned to trap or tranquillise the tiger but later ordered the search teams, atop trained elephants and on foot, to shoot and kill. District forest officer Sugeetharja Koilpillai said camera traps had helped narrow down the search area.

“The camera traps had captured images of the tiger around Kundachappai village and had also shown it to be weak due to lack of food. There were also bloodstains on the pugmarks due to an injury. Since it had slowed down and could not travel far, we found it exactly where we were looking for.”