Indian police have shot dead a tiger dubbed the “Man-eater of Champaran” that killed at least nine people, in a major operation involving 200 people including trackers on elephants, officials said Sunday.

The big cat had terrorised locals on the fringes of the Valmiki Tiger Reserve in Champaran in eastern India, killing at least six people in the past month including a woman and her eight-year-old son on Saturday.

Even before the two latest kills, authorities had designated the tiger, reportedly a male three or four years old, as a “man-eater”, meaning that it could be shot. Earlier attempts to tranquillize the animal had failed.

“Two teams went into the forest on two elephants on Saturday afternoon and the third one waited where we thought the tiger would exit — and we fired five rounds to kill it there,” local police chief Kiran Kumar told AFP.

With local villagers beating tin containers, it took about six hours for the team — with eight shooters and about 200 forest department officials — to complete the operation, Kumar said.

Officials said that large sugarcane fields made it easier for the tiger to stay hidden and attack local villagers and their livestock.

The victims included a 12-year-old girl dragged from her bed on Wednesday night, reports said.

Locals in the impoverished villages around the reserve in Bihar state stopped going out in the evening after the tiger’s first attack maimed a teenager in May.

But “despite the lurking fear of tiger, it was not possible for us to confine ourselves in our homes as we needed to feed our cattle,” Ram Kisun Yadav, a local villager told the Hindustan Times newspaper.

Locals celebrated after the animal was finally shot.

“It was a sleepless night for the whole village. We kept beating tin containers to shoo away the tiger if at all it was hiding near our village,” villager Paltu Mahato told the Hindustan Times.

Conservationists blame the rapid expansion of human settlements around forests and key wildlife corridors for animals like elephants and tigers for an increase in man-animal conflict in parts of India.

Nearly 225 people were killed in tiger attacks between 2014 and 2019 in India, according to government figures.

More than 200 tigers were killed by poachers or electrocution between 2012 and 2018, the data showed.

India is home to around 70 per cent of the world’s tigers and the tiger population was estimated at 2,967 in 2018.

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