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Killer tiger shot dead

Nagpur, Aug. 19: A team of sharpshooters today shot dead a full-grown male tiger in the forests of Chandrapur district after it was suspected to have killed seven persons and injured six since January this year.

The Maharashtra forest department had on Sunday evening issued orders to kill the feline, amid intensifying public protests and mounting pressure from local politicians, after it had claimed its latest victim.

Two days ago, the tiger had attacked and killed a 35-year-old resident of Dongar Haldi village, in the forest belt of Pombhurna tehsil in the district, some 160km from here.

The area, scene of an ongoing man-tiger conflict, straddles three districts and is contiguous to the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve.

Dattu Dhole, the victim, had on Sunday gone searching for his missing cattle in the forests along with two villagers. The tiger attacked Dattu even as the other two managed to climb a tree to safety.

The tiger caught Dattu by his neck and dragged his body into the nearby bushes, an official said.

The feline that killed Dattu has been identified as the same tiger that was spotted around its last human kill near Ghanoti village, in the same forest stretch, chief conservator of forests (Chandrapur) Sanjay Thakre said.

Three teams of sharpshooters had been deployed by the forest department to hunt for the problem animal, which had not been declared a maneater.

This was the third tiger to be put down in the Vidarbha forests ever since the man-tiger conflict escalated in 2007.

The first tiger was ordered to be killed in 2007 at Talodhi, a few miles west from the area of the attacks this time, after it had killed four persons. The second to be neutralised was a young tigress. It was shot down last year in Gondia district after it killed five women in a span of 20 days.

The latest shoot-down order came from Sarjan Bhagat, principal chief conservator of forests, wildlife, after villagers refused to cremate Dattu’s body. Soon, local politicians, including MLAs, joined the villagers in calling for the animal to be shot dead.

Pombhurna has been tense since the tiger began killing people. The officials had first thought the feline was part of a family moving together but it was later found to be a single predator.

Over the past month or so, field officials said they tried everything to capture the animal. They used cattle as baits while five cages and over a 100 camera traps were installed to keep track of the tiger but the big cat eluded the foresters. “We were trying to tranquillise and capture the problem animal,” Thakre said.

But after its latest attack triggered protests and angry reactions, officials sought permission to put it down. They had exhausted all other options, a forest official said.