He shot a tigress between its eyes with a Winchester .458 Mag rifle. After tracking the animal – that killed five people and injured thirty five others – for forty days, Nawab Shafath Ali Khan from Hyderabad finally accomplished the task requested of him by the forest officials of Uttar Pradesh, India.
Just as Masood and I returned from our wildlife safari, we saw Nawab Shafath Ali Khan smile and nod to us as he pulled the horse’s reins. Closely behind him, his son rode another horse. His wife followed them in a jeep. While the men continued riding into the resort towards their house, Mrs. Shafath Ali Khan walked with us. We introduced ourselves. She is so warm and sweet that, for a moment, I thought I’d known her for ages! Masood was eager to meet the Nawab, specially since they both hail from Hyderabad. And I was excited mainly because it was my first time to ever meet a real nawab!
It was shortly after breakfast that we finally got to personally meet Nawab Shafath Ali Khan. We sat at the balcony behind his house, facing a lush green forest. As we spoke, a flock of ducks paraded by, birds chirped continuously, and a monkey jumped on the roof. The nawab and his wife are both wonderful people, mashaAllah. They live in Hyderabad, but visit Mudumalai often to oversee their thriving business: the Safari Land Resort. They live a very active lifestyle, his favorite being horse riding early in the morning.
He took out photographs and newspaper clippings, and told us about his adventures with great zeal. He loves wildlife and photography. And he’s an experienced shooter too, which was the reason why he was asked to shoot the man-eating tigress.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) guidelines do not permit a non-forest official to shoot a man-eater unless the forest department is not equipped to do so. That was why, when the forest officials couldn’t capture the man-eating tigress that had terrorized Faizabad, they asked Nawab Shafath Ali Khan’s help to track down the animal. It took them forty days. And in February last year, he finally came face to face with the tigress.
It was declared a man-eater after it killed a boy in December 2008, but the order was revoked after protests from wildlife organizations and environmentalists. It was again declared a man-eater after it killed a man in Faizabad on January 9 last year. The last man it killed was a forest guide, Raghu Raj, on January 15.
So early on that Tuesday morning, the tiger attacked and killed a cow in Bakchula village. Nawab Shafath Ali Khan said that since the cow was half-eaten, he was sure that the tiger would come again to eat its prey. So he waited the whole day on a scaffolding on a nearby tree. And sure enough, the animal returned to the spot at around 6 in the evening.
Nawab Shafath Ali Khan sat on a 20 feet high platform with his tracker that evening. The tigress being a very vigilant animal sat just ten yards from the bait. Once they shone a light towards it, the tigress leaped towards the light. This was when he took the first shot between the neck and shoulder, the second shot was on the shoulder and the finishing shot between the eyes. By this time, the tigress was right under the tree, just three feet away from the nawab.
Wildlife experts point out that it is crucial to take quick action in case of a wandering tiger because if it adapts to eating humans, rehabilitating it in the wild or even in captivity (like in a zoo) becomes difficult. The authorities are then forced to take extreme steps like shooting.
He received a letter of appreciation from Lucknow’s chief conservator of forest.
“I am full of sorrow after killing the animal, but then it had become necessary for saving people and their livelihood.” he said.