Note: Unless otherwise noted, the quotes from this story are from a radio interview on Fox Sports Radio’s Outkick the Coverage program. The above photo of a tiger is a file photo and is not the actual tiger evading authorities.
PANDHARKAWADA, India — Forest rangers are looking for a tiger responsible for killing 14 people in the hills around Pandharkawada, a town in central India.
The Supreme Court of India has authorized famed tiger hunter and conservationist Nawab Shafath Ali Khan to tranquilize or shoot the 5-year-old tigress that has developed a taste for human flesh.
“This is one of the most challenging and difficult operations of the century,” Khan told Outkick the Coverage’s Clay Travis in a radio interview on Thursday. “It involves four tigers.”
Khan said three attempts to tranquilize the tigress – who is traveling with the father and two cubs around 10 months old – have failed.
“Once they start feeding on human beings, they realize that the meat is softer and easier for the cubs to chew, and it’s much easier to hunt, so that’s why once they become man-eaters, they continue to kill human beings and that becomes a very serious matter,” Khan said. “So far, 14 innocent people have lost their lives to this tigress.”
According to Khan, the Supreme Court has authorized him to neutralize the tigress and to capture the two cubs, but not the father.
“I don’t want to kill this beautiful animal,” said K. M. Abharna, a top forestry official in the Pandharkawada area, to the New York Times. “But there’s a hell of a lot of political pressure and a hell of a lot of public pressure.”
The two cubs are “bigger than a jaguar that you’d get in America,” Khan said.
“Once, they become man-eaters, their body language changes,” Khan said. “We have to differentiate. With my experience, I can make out by seeing a tiger whether it’s a normal tiger or a man-eater.”
The New York Times reports rangers in India are using Calvin Klein Obsession cologne to lure the tigress, whom rangers call T-1.
Three years ago, perfume was used to trap a leopard in India, according to the BBC.
Khan was skeptical that the Obsession cologne would be effective in luring T-1.
“I’ve tried various methods, [the cologne] may work on a normal tiger or a tigress, but man-eaters become extremely clever, and all of these things don’t work,” Khan said.
The Times reports rangers have used several methods to try to find T-1, including having hundreds of foot soldiers to comb the jungle, bulldozers to clear it, sharpshooters, jeeps, camera traps, a thermal imagery drone and five Indian elephants in hopes of surrounding the tiger so the veterinarians riding the elephants can dart her.
While Khan has hunted rogue elephants in the past, rangers are using the animals to help find T-1 and her family.
“Elephants can maneuver into the jungle where no other vehicle can go, and it moves silently,” Khan said.
Elephants also have a great sense of smell, Khan said.
While rangers have searched for T-1 for about two years, Khan said he’s been trying to find the tigress for one week. Researchers are at a loss for why she started attacking humans.
Khan said rangers drive around at night with spotlights trying to see if they can catch a glimpse of T-1, but haven’t had a direct sighting in more than a week.
“I have never worked on any tiger that has killed so many people,” Khan said.
Khan said he is working “almost 20 hours a day,” trying to find T-1.
“It is a desperate situation. The farmers are up in arms. It’s a very, very serious matter,” Khan said. “Twenty-six villagers are affected and about 30,000 men are not able to come out of their houses...nobody knows if one will get back home, or if he’ll be killed by the man-eater.”
Khan got into animal hunting because his grandfather was an expert in man-animal conflicts in India. His grandfather was an expert on rogue, man-killing elephants.
While India banned hunting for sport in 1972, the government looks to Khan when wildlife terrorizes rural communities in the country.
Khan said he has conducted 24 operations for the government of India.
At the age of 19, Khan himself killed his first rogue elephant. Last year, he killed an elephant that had trampled 15 people to death over six months in Bihar and Jharkhand.
In his hunting career, Khan said he killed seven man-eating tigers.
Khan is also an excellent marksman. He is an award-winning shooter.
“With my shooting background and the tranquilizing expertise, I’m the man the government of India looks to whenever they have a problem,” Khan said.
Khan has had a few close encounters in his hunting career.
“I have shot a tiger when he was three feet from the barrel of my rifle,” Khan said. “After taking two bullets from a .458-magnum, it came for me and the last shot that I took between its eyes, the tiger was hardly three feet from me.”
Khan said he uses a .458-Winchester magnum when hunting tigers.
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