For weeks wildlife enthusiasts and animal lovers were campaigning to save Avni, a tigress in Maharashtra, for which the government had issued a shoot at sight order because she was allegedly a man-eater.
But even as the campaigners continued to make their desperate attempts, the news which they feared has come.
The tigress officially called T1 has been shot dead by the team of hunters which was dispatched to eliminate her.
The five-year-old tigress was shot dead on Friday night from near a road in Borati village by Asgar Ali Khan, son of sharp-shooter Shafath Ali Khan who was heading the hunt for her.
She was killed in a single shot, from point blank, without even making an attempt to tranquilize her and capture the tiger alive, which the activists were demanding.
The death of Avni leaves her two young cubs who are around 10-months-old, vulnerable, as the hunt team is yet to capture them or devise any solid plan to rehabilitate them.
The death of Avni is once again likely to ignite the debate over how animals are always on the receiving end when it comes to human-animal conflicts.
The order to shoot her dead was issued on September 4 was and was cleared by the Supreme Court on September 11 citing that she was a maneater.
According to the government records since June 2016, 13 people have been killed in tiger attacks in Pandharkawada divisional forest, 11 of whom were shepherds inside the forest and two in farms. Of the last five deaths, one was in December 2017, one in January 2018 and three in August.
However, those behind the campaign had pointed out that alleged deaths had happened inside the forest, where it was illegal to enter. They also alleged that out of the 13 bodies which were recovered, DNA tests were conducted only on 3 of them and tiger DNA was found only on one of the bodies.
Following the killing of Avani, activists are also likely to raise the fact that the tigress was shot dead by Asgar Ali Khan, while the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) A K Mishra had given the shooting permission to his father Shafath Ali Khan who was away in Patna to attend the meeting of Bihar State Wildlife Board.
Last month, the Bombay High Court’s Nagpur Bench admitted a petition that sought a stay on plans to kill the tigress and instead capture her alive. Wildlife activist Jerryl A. Banait contended that instead of killing her, which will orphan her cubs, the Forest Department should capture her alive, as per the Supreme Court orders on September 11.