23:13 GMT22 June 2021
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    Even as more than 150 ground personnel, elephants and expert trackers and shooters are out to kill Avni, hundreds of thousands of supporters online and offline are pleading the Indian government to let her live on.

    In government records, this tigress is named T1, but animal lovers call her "Avni," which means Mother Earth. First spotted in the year 2012 in the dense forests of Maharashtra in central India, Avni is now a proclaimed man-eater after 13 deaths have been attributed to her in the last two years.

    "The tigress marked T1 weighs around 300 pounds and is believed to be a man-eater though there is no conclusive evidence to support this government claim. Yavatmal region in Maharashtra is a dense forest area and it is a herculean task to spot a particular animal. The court orders to kill the tigress was obtained in January this year and till now the hunt has been futile," Naveen P., a wildlife writer and author, told Sputnik. Naveen has been tracking the story since its beginning. 

    An online petition launched by Avni lovers is now gaining international attention.

    Vocal supporters of Avni say that it is the people who have encroached the habitat of the tigress and it's not the other way round. 

    Support for Avni is pouring in from different parts of the world.

    Officials, though, agree that they have court orders to kill her, but their first priority is to take control of the "man-eater animal."

    "Our first option is of course to tranquilize her and this where we are putting all of our efforts," the PTI quotes Sunil Limaye, a top official of the Forest Department of Maharashtra.

    "We don't want to kill her but it is getting increasingly difficult to do so. The undergrowth in the area due to the lantana is so dense that one can hardly walk through it and if the tiger moves through that, to get a clear shot with a tranquilizer is practically impossible," he added.

    In the last ten months of the hunt for T1, the government has tried all tricks, but in vain. Five elephants were brought in as a patrol squad to navigate areas that jeeps cannot. But it became impossible for the elephants in the very hot and very humid climate in the region. One of the elephants is also reported to have killed a local woman in the meantime.

    Drones with thermal image capacity were also pressed into service, but the tigress could not be spotted. While the government and environment activists lock horns, Avni remains free and at large with her two cubs.


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