LUCKNOW - A man-eating tiger on the prowl in northern India has claimed its ninth victim, defying hunters and wildlife officials who have been trying to gun down the animal, an official said Friday.

Since December 29, the same big cat is believed to have been on a killing spree in a densely forested area near Jim Corbett National Park in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Salil Shukla, an official in the district of Bijnor, told AFP that the partly eaten body of a young farmer had been found on Friday.

“The victim was missing since Thursday and had gone into the jungle to locate his cattle,” he said. “This is the ninth victim of the man-eater.”

While tiger-hunting has long been illegal in India, the Uttar Pradesh state government has licensed six hunters to either capture or kill the tigress who has terrorised local villagers. India is home to half the world’s dwindling tiger population which now stands at around 3,000. A loss of their natural habitat has brought man and beast into closer proximity across the subcontinent.

Even conservationists say that once a tiger has tasted human flesh more than once it is almost impossible to rehabilitate it and that killing the animal is the only responsible option. Although the latest spate of attacks is serious by recent standards, conservationist Belinda Wright from the Wildlife Protection Society of India said that the tigress was nothing compared to some of the legends of the past. Jim Corbett, a colonial-era hunter-turned-conservationist after whom the Jim Corbett National Park is named, tells in his best-selling book the “Man-eaters of Kumaon” of tigers and leopards that killed hundreds.

“They do get a taste for humans,” Wright explained. “But I think (attacks happen) more because we’re very easy prey. As a tiger gets older, or is disabled in some way, we’re just very, very easy as we bumble around on our two legs.” She said that conflicts between tigers and local people who live in densely populated settlements around wildlife sanctuaries “is only going to get worse.”