November 5, 2018 / 11:34 AM / 15 days ago

Killing of two tigers in India triggers recriminations, minister's threat

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The killing of two tigers in India, one shot by authorities and the other run over by a tractor and beaten to death by villagers, has sparked anger among environmentalists and a threat of prosecution from a government minister.

FILE PHOTO: A tigress carries her cub at a zoological park in the northeastern city of Guwahati October 24, 2007. REUTERS/Utpal Baruah/File photo

In both cases the tigers had allegedly attacked and killed people but their appearance in populated areas may also be because of increasing encroachment by people, wildlife experts said.

India, which is home to the majority of the global tiger population in the wild, recorded a 30 percent increase in its tiger population between 2010-2014 to an estimated 2,226. That, though, is down from 3,642 in 2002.

On Friday, state authorities in Maharashtra hired a private shooter and killed the tigress known as “Avni” around 50 km (30 miles) outside a protected forest reserve after reports it had killed 13 people, a state forest official told Reuters.

A tigress on Sunday was run over by a tractor and beaten to death with sticks after locals said it had attacked and killed a man in a village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, media said.

Federal Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi, who is also an animal rights activist, tweeted on Sunday that Avni’s killing was a “ghastly murder” and a “straight case of crime”. She said she would pursue the case legally.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said Avni was starving at the time of death and the authorities killed the animal without the presence of a veterinarian to tranquilize it.

“Why will a man-eater be starving after killing a dozen people and not retaliate while being chased? It was a cold-blooded murder,” said Meet Ashar, lead emergency response coordinator for PETA India.

Maharashtra’s forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said the state government decided to kill the tigress following the guidelines of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a statutory body under the federal environment ministry, according to a tweet from ANI, a Reuters partner.

A state forest official said Avni had strayed too far outside the reserve because of likely encroachment by people.

“Any tiger would not normally venture out so far unless there was a large number of people entering its habitat and making it fearful for its life,” said Pingale Bhanudas Narayan, deputy conservator of forests in the Yavatmal division of Maharashtra state.

Reporting by Neha Dasgupta; Editing by Martin Howell and Nick Macfie

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