Tigress Avni died of excessive internal haemorrhage and cardio-respiratory failure, according to the provisional necropsy report, PTI reported on Friday.
The examination –conducted by veterinarians from several institutions – pointed to the presence of liquid and gas in the animal’s stomach and intestines, indicating that she had not hunted or eaten for several days.
The “man-eating” tigress was killed on the night of November 2 in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district during an operation by the state forest department. The six-year-old animal – the mother of two eleven-month-old cubs – had allegedly claimed at least 13 lives in Ralegaon forest since June 2016. Sharpshooter Asgar Ali, son of famous sharpshooter Nawab Shafat Ali, killed her. Avni’s cubs have not been found yet.
The doctors found a circular punctured skin wound on the animal’s left thoracic region. This shows that the gunshot was fired from the left side of her chest, veterinarian Dr M Navin Kumar of Hyderabad’s Nehru Zoological Park told The Times of India. The bullet hit her shoulder bone and punctured the lungs.
The Maharashtra government has claimed that Avni was killed after she attacked forest staff attempting to tranquillise her. However, an unidentified state government official told The Print that Avni did not charge at the team. “The forensics clearly show that the tigress was not charging at the team, but instead going somewhere else,” the official added. “If she was charging at the team, she would have been shot in her face or chest, not her shoulder.”
The doctors said there was a dart on the middle of Avni’s left thigh along with a 5-ml plastic dart with stabilisers and a 1.5-inch collared needle “placed subcutaneously”. According to the report, the connective tissue underneath the skin was intact, meaning that the tranquilliser did not enter the tigress’ blood flow.
Kumar said ballistics experts would be able to tell if the dart was fired from a gun and from what distance. “If the bullet was shot within no time after the dart was fired, the tranquillising chemical may not transmit to internal organs,” he said. “Depending on the size of the animal, it takes 15-20 minutes for the sedative to reach organs.”
The forest department officials had been told to shoot the animal only if tranquilliser failed. It is not clear when the tranquilliser dart was fired.
The sharpshooter also allegedly violated the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s guidelines by shooting Avni with a .300 Winchester rifle and not a .458 Winchester Magnum rifle as claimed by the forest department. The tiger conservation authority instructs shooters to use a gun of calibre above .375 to hunt tigers so that they die quickly.
While Union minister Maneka Gandhi has described the shooting as “patently illegal” and a “ghastly murder”, Maharashtra Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar has accusedGandhi of lacking information about the matter. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said his government will investigate if there were any lapses in the procedure to kill the tigress.