A man-eating Indian tiger has been shot dead after an exhaustive, months-long search, involving drones, sharpshooters, dogs, elephants, 200 forestry rangers and Calvin Klein cologne.
The "aggressive and clever" tigress, known as T1, was shot on Friday evening in Maharashtra state, having been hunted for killing a suspected 14 people over the last two years.
The lead hunter shot her with a .458 Winchester Magnum rifle, claiming the tigress charged at him and left him no other option.
“There was no doubt that human lives were in danger. There was a market day and the tiger was just on a road that people use and children cycle on so we had to get there," Asgar Ali Khan, a legendary tiger catcher recruited to hunt the animal, told the Sunday Telegraph.
“This was a tigress that was aggressive and clever, and had absolutely no fear of humans," he said.
"She had tasted human flesh and saw us like monkeys, or goats, or other prey. So when she charged at us I had to shoot in self-defence.”
The saga has been through the courts, wildlife departments and splashed across newspapers all summer as people followed the search for the killer tiger of Pandharkawda, in the west Indian state.
Mr Asgar is descended from a line of well-respected hunters and had been in pursuit of T1 since September.
The hunt began with much fanfare but faced several problems, including a rampaging elephant that killed a villager, protests from conservation groups over the Mr Asgar’s involvement and CK Obsession aftershave failing to attract the beast.
The fragrance contains civetone, a synthetic smell derived from the civet species known to drive big cats wild, but the bait didn’t work.
“She was too clever for the cologne”, said Mr Asgar. “We were dealing with an extraordinarily smart tiger.”
However, wildlife activists and animal experts questioned the tactics deployed in T1’s killing.
Senior veterinarian and forensic expert Prayag Hodigere Siddalingappa said: “It’s not a legal shooting. It’s a murder, poaching. How did they do it without the presence of a vet?
“How could they identify the tigress at night? How did they do it after sunset? The tiger runs away after being darted, it doesn’t charge back at you.”
Mr Asgar said his team was experienced and had night vision equipment. They tracked T1 for several weeks.
He said: “After hearing reports of the tiger being on the road we moved in to ensure safe passage of any people and to get them out, and also in the hope of tranquilising her.”
The remains of the tiger were sent to Nagpur’s Gorewada Zoo, where a postmortem will be conducted.
On the protests, Mr Asgar said: “I am very disappointed to hear such reaction. Our priority was always to capture the tigress, but my team was in extreme danger when she charged us, so I had to shoot. I just picked up my .458 Winchester Magnum rifle and fired. I didn’t even have time to aim.”
The tigress was six-years-old and her cubs are about one year old. The search continues for the offspring, with the idea to sedate them and move them to a safari park or zoo.