Tiger shot near reserve days after India forms conservation agency

Just a week after India set up a new government agency to save its tiger population, the scale of its task was underlined when a tiger was shot just a few miles from one of India's premier wildlife parks, the Corbett tiger reserve.

The dying three-metre long tiger attacked one man after it was shot, and badly mauled him. The injured man, who was named as Inder Singh, was critically ill yesterday.

Villagers claimed Mr Singh was injured in an unprovoked attack, and demanded compensation. But wildlife officers carried out a post-mortem examination on the tiger and found two home-made rifle bullets.

Police have now filed a case against Mr Singh and two other men. But the death has emphasised the scale of the crisis. India is home to the largest population of tigers left in the wild. But there was a scandal last year after it emerged that many reserves inflated their numbers to cover up the scale of poaching.

A tiger skin can fetch £10,000 in Tibet, the centre of the world's illegal skin trade. Until now, India's wildlife protection agencies have been ill-equipped to protect tigers from the often heavily-armed poachers.

Until last year, it was believed there were 3,600 wild tigers in India alone. Now conservationists fear there may be only 3,000 in the world. India's National Tiger Conservation Authority is meant to change that, but critics say it lacks the powers to enforce conservation.

The killing is believed to have been unplanned. Mr Singh and the other men are believed to have dug a pit to trap wild boar or deer. When they got a tiger, they decided to kill it.

Reserve officials refused to confirm whether the animal was from Corbett.