The controversy over the killing of tigress Avni in Maharashtra is gaining momentum with criticisms pouring in. The latest report states that the alleged ‘man-eater’ was killed in violation of NTCA protocol and guidelines issued by the forest department and the Supreme Court.
According to a report published in The Print, son of the controversial Hyderabad-based hunter Nawab Shafath Ali Khan eventually shot Avni. He was reportedly hired by the Maharashtra forest department to capture the tigress, which had evoked massive protests from animal rights activists and wildlife experts.
When contacted, the forest department refused to comment why a hunter was hired to capture a tigress, who (Avni) was trying to protect her two cubs. Also, due to the killing of Avni, the fate of two cubs has become uncertain and there has been no word on this till Saturday afternoon.
Earlier, the Supreme Court and the forest department had clearly stated that the primary objective of the operation was to tranquilise and capture Avni. It also reiterated that killing of the tigress should be proposed as the last alternative, however, it is still unclear why was Khan’s son Asghar was present at the site!
Also, adding more violation to the guidelines, Avni was killed during the night, between sunset and the sunrise. According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) protocol, this is strictly prohibited.
Calling this as a cold-blooded murder, petitioner Dr Jerryl Banai said, as quoted by The Print, “Efforts to dart the animal were simply never made. The shooter was hired with the intention of killing the tigress, and that is what has happened — it is a cold-blooded murder.”
With the issues becoming complicated, Khan had stated that he was forced to choose the night for nabbing the tigress — violating NTCA rules — as it was impossible to spot Avni during the day.
However, forest department officials complained to principal conservator of forests AK Mishra — who hired Khan — stating that they lost ‘two golden opportunities’ to catch Avni due to the hunter’s actions. Also, the letters stated that Khan chose not to co-operate with the officials and spoke to the media, despite prohibitory orders.
The deputy conservator of forests, in his second letter, had mentioned that Khan sabotaged the forest department’s attempts to capture the tigress and created a media-frenzy around the case — ostensibly to create support for Avni’s killing.
Believed to have killed at least 13 people, the Maharashtra forest department had been trying to nab the tigress for last one year. With time passing by and the lives of citizens at stake, the Supreme Court said the tigress may be killed only if all efforts to tranquilise fail. However, the suspense remains on what exactly happened there!