Avni, a five-year old alleged man-eater tigress who had created terror in Maharshtra’s Vidarbha forests, was shot dead on Saturday in Yavatmal district.

In September this year, the Supreme Court had said Avni could be shot at sight, which prompted a flurry of online petitions seeking pardon for the tigress.

The search operation came after nearly three months of a massive tigress-hunt along with trap cameras, drones, a pack of trained sniffer dogs and a hang-glider along with a team of forest department officials and spotters.

“Avni was shot dead by sharp-shooter Asgar Ali, son of famous sharp-shooter Nawab Shafat Ali, at compartment no 149 of Borati forest under the jurisdiction of the Ralegaon police station,” a police official said.

“Avni, who was known in Pandharkawda forest area, had killed 13 people over the last two years in the region,” he said.

A fertile and healthy tigress, she was protecting her two 10-month old dependent cubs in the vicinity of the Tippeshwar Tiger Sanctuary, since the past several weeks till she was shot down by a marksman, Nawab Asghar Ali Khan.

Her carcass has been shifted to Nagpur for an autopsy but her cubs were missing.

Wildlife activist and medico Jerryl A. Banait, who had filed a public interest litigation jointly with NGO Earth Brigade Foundation (EBF), said that the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)’s rules have been grossly violated in the killing of Avni.

“Such an operation can be carried out only between sunrise and sunset, there was no vets present during the killing early today or the police, as per the NTCA’s guidelines. In the night, its almost impossible to even identify the gender of any tiger, let alone a specific target like Avni,” IANS quoted Banait as saying.

Besides PILs in the Supreme Court and Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench), several wildlife groups and activists had strongly opposed plans to eliminate Avni since it would also mean near-certain death for her two dependent young ones, online petitions and social media campaigns since several months, demonstrations and protests in a bid to save the tigress and her cubs.

(With agency inputs)