The day Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao joined other world leaders in St Petersburg to work out a deal to save the remaining 3200 tigers in the wild, Indian security personnel and forest officials botched a rescue operation and ended up gunning down a healthy eight-feet male member of the endangered species. The tiger had strayed into Nagabandha village in Morigaon district of Assam early Tuesday morning. It was hiding in a paddy field, when a 40-year-old woman crossed its path. She was badly mauled and died on the spot. Soon after, a police team reached the spot and even as the cops were inspecting the area, the tiger attacked again, seriously injuring a policeman. The twin attacks triggered huge alarm and angry villagers poured out of their homes and began surrounding the paddy field. As the crowd swelled, the tiger panicked and started running frantically. A large rescue team comprising forest officials and vets also reached the spot and began shooting darts to tranquillise the big cat. The villagers added to the chaos by chasing the tiger in all directions. “Whichever direction the tiger moved, the crowd followed. So even as we kept our darts ready, the crowd came between us and the target. It was horrible,” said one of the vets. Around 1pm, the team managed to fire a dart but it failed to tranquillise the tiger and the animal entered a hut. “The crowed rushed in and chased it out. In a moment of panic, the tiger pounced on a man and mauled him to death,” said Ranjan Barthakur of NGO Green Guard, who was present at the spot. After the second casualty, security forces didn’t want to take any more chances and shot the animal. “It was unfortunate that the tiger had to be shot down. Our personnel maintained maximum restraint. But the crowd was so large that there was no other option. If we had not killed the tiger, there would have been more casualties,” said Morigaon SP Anurag Agarwal. Chief wildlife warden Suresh Chand, however, said he had not issued any order to kill the tiger, nor was he contacted. “The team was on the spot and doing its best to tranquillise the animal. But no order was issued to kill the tiger. An inquiry has been instituted,” he said. Chief conservator of forests, D M Singh, will head the inquiry team. However, wildlife conservationists said the killing of the tiger could have been averted.