Top hunter called in to track down killer tiger
INDIA’S most celebrated hunter has been called in for a controversial mission to shoot a man-eating tiger blamed for killing 13 people.
Nawab Shafath Ali Khan has begun his hunt after India’s highest court dismissed objections from conservation groups and authorised the killing of the four-year-old cat and its two cubs.
The hunter, scion of an aristocratic family, has started combing the jungles of Maharashtra after the animal, known as T1, began terrorising villages.
Wildlife activists sought to block any court order allowing its death, arguing there was no definitive proof it was responsible for the deaths.
They also tried to block the involvement of Mr Khan, one of the top marksmen used by Indian officials concerned about man-eating tigers, rogue elephants or wild boar.
Mr Khan is using elephants to stalk the tiger as vehicles are too noisy. He has said he will only shoot to kill as a last resort, instead using a tranquilliser gun if possible. The hunt authorisation calls for Mr Khan to capture the tiger alive, but to kill it if necessary.
Activists fear Mr Khan, renowned for killing hundreds of animals, will only make a token effort to take the cat alive. He has said he is convinced the tiger is guilty and it is killing for survival because of a lack of other prey.
“It has two cubs aged 10 months which are also eating human flesh,” he told the Times of India. “The killing of humans is easy prey… so the tigress is killing humans for survival.”
The tiger is thought to have killed 13 people near Pandharkawada over
‘My job is hangman. I am the man who is putting the noose on the convict and pushing the button’
the past two years, with three lives lost just last month.
Victims have been found part-eaten, with limbs torn off and teeth marks on their remains.
Indian officials say DNA tests, camera traps and footprints all point to the killings having been carried out by a single tiger.
India’s tigers are strictly protected by conservation laws, but the country’s growing population and loss of habitat means the creatures are increasingly in competition with people. The success of protection laws has also seen their number begin to grow again, years after plummeting for decades. India is home to around 70 per cent of the world’s 4,000 tigers.
Mr Khan is the private hunter usually called upon when people and India’s abundant wildlife clash.
Born into a Hyderabad family descended from royalty, he grew up enchanted by the hunting tales of his grandfather, who was a renowned Raj-era elephant hunter.
He first held a gun when he was four and soon became an able tracker and accomplished shot.
At the age of 19 he was recommended by a family friend when officials needed someone to shoot a rogue elephant which had trampled 12 people to death. His fame quickly grew and officials from around India began calling for his help.
As well as tigers, leopards or elephants terrorising rural villages, he is also sometimes called on to cull India’s wild boar. In an interview last year he said it was the courts and officials who decided the fate of the animals.
“My job is of a hangman,” he said. “I am the man who is putting the noose on the convict and pushing the button of the gallows.”