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Tigress Avni's Orphaned Cubs Found Alive in Forest, Officials Say Could be Rescued

The mother was shot dead in early November after being accused of killing more than a dozen villagers, capping off one of India’s most high-profile tiger hunts and angering conservation activists.

AFP

Updated:November 15, 2018, 4:21 PM IST
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Tigress Avni's Orphaned Cubs Found Alive in Forest, Officials Say Could be Rescued
The body of the man-eating tigress Avni is wheeled into the post-mortem room at the Gorewada Rescue Centre in Nagpur.
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The orphaned cubs of tigress Avni, who was killed in a state-sanctioned hunt, have been spotted in a forest and could be rescued and rehabilitated, officials said on Thursday.

The mother was shot dead in early November after being accused of killing more than a dozen villagers, capping off one of India’s most high-profile tiger hunts and angering conservation activists.

The months-long search deployed 200 hunters using paragliders, infrared cameras, sharpshooters on elephant back, and even Calvin Klein fragrance to lure the big cat.

Maharashtra forestry department's AK Mishra said the cubs were "healthy and surviving" and that specialists would assess whether they had acquired a taste for humans from their mother. "The cubs may or may not have become man-eaters, depending on their proximity to their mother when she attacked humans," he said. "But we are hopeful of rescuing and rehabilitating them."

The Supreme Court sanctioned the hunt in September, saying the big cat could be shot dead if tranquillisers failed. Several appeals were lodged by animal activists who said the tigress — dubbed T1 by forestry officials but Avni by her advocates — said the mother was merely acting in defence of her young cubs. The shooting caused considerable anger, and raised questions over the nature of the killing.

The animal was shot dead by Asghar Ali Khan, the son of India's most famous hunter Nawab Shafath Ali Khan. Villagers in a Maharashtra district where the tigress had roamed celebrated her death by setting off firecrackers, local media reported.

India has launched a major campaign to boost tiger numbers. At the last tiger census in 2014, the population had risen to more than 2,200 from a low of less than 1,500. But as urban areas have expanded in the country of 1.25 billion, conflict between humans and tigers has worsened. Elephants and tigers kill on average one person a day in India, according to government figures.

Poaching is also a concern. A three-year-old tiger was found dead Thursday after being caught in a poachers trap set in a protected reserve in Odisha, local media reported.

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