‘Pro­fes­sional, sci­en­tific method clashed with nawab’s ap­proach’

Mid Day - - City - RANJEET JADHAV ranjeet.jadhav@mid-day.com for the job?

VET­ERI­NAR­IAN and foren­sic ex­pert Dr Prayag H S, a se­nior PhD re­search scholar, Kar­nataka Ve­teri­nary, An­i­mal and Fish­eries Sciences Univer­sity (KVAFSU-Bengaluru), talks about the way the oper­a­tion to cap­ture and later kill T1 was dealt with, and how Nawab Shafat Ali Khan ap­par­ently hi­jacked the en­tire sys­tem.

We have heard that there is a lot of pres­sure on you as you have been rais­ing the short­com­ings in the oper­a­tion to cap­ture (and later kill) T1 and the way the Ma­ha­rash­tra for­est depart­ment car­ried it out. What is your take on this?

I started my wildlife jour­ney in 2003 as an in­tern vet­eri­nar­ian at the world fa­mous Mysore Zoo. Later, I had the op­por­tu­nity to work with the Kar­nataka For­est Depart­ment (KFD) at Bhadra Tiger Re­serve. From then on I have been work­ing ei­ther with KFD or the Zoo Au­thor­ity of Kar­nataka (ZAK). I am cur­rently on dep­u­ta­tion to do my PhD, and the credit for what­ever I am to­day goes to the ground field staff and dy­namic of­fi­cers of both in­sti­tu­tions who had hon­esty and in­tegrity. I am not tar­get­ing the Ma­ha­rash­tra For­est Depart­ment (MFD), but am def­i­nitely tar­get­ing the un­sci­en­tific prac­tices of the nawab and those who are mis­lead­ing the sys­tem.

Still, you work with the Kar­nataka For­est Depart­ment and are crit­i­cis­ing the Ma­ha­rash­tra For­est Depart­ment...

When­ever any state asks for our pro­fes­sional sup­port or sci­en­tific ap­proach re­gard­ing wildlife, it’s our duty to help them. When we found on our In­dian wildlife vets What­sApp group that nawab saab was go­ing to Ya­vat­mal to shoot a tiger, last De­cem­ber we [some vet­eri­nar­i­ans] vol­un­teered our ser­vices know­ing how trig­ger-happy he is. We are thank­ful to MFD for the in­vi­ta­tion. How­ever, we had mailed to them that we would be work­ing as per NTCA pro­to­col and guide­lines as pro­fes­sion­als. The re­al­ity on ground zero sur­prised us. We then found out that the ti­gress was preg­nant/lac­tat­ing and asked MFD to get it con­firmed and call us back. We wrote our re­ports and gave rec­om­men­da­tions on how to go about the cap­ture oper­a­tion of T1. The NTCA took cog­ni­sance of our re­ports and asked them to halt the oper­a­tion. In Au­gust there were three hu­man kills and vets were called from Mad­hya Pradesh. Even they had to leave over dif­fer­ences be­tween them and the nawab’s style of work­ing. It was a clash be­tween pro­fes­sional sci­en­tific ap­proach and nawab saab’s ap­proach. We have been vo­cal when­ever he in­tim­i­dated vets and la­belled for­est of­fi­cials as in­com­pe­tent.

What do you think needs to be done to trap the cubs and do you think the depart­ment should in­volve pri­vate hunters We had given a plan of ac­tion on how to go about the en­tire oper­a­tion and even helped in pro­cure­ment of CK Ob­ses­sion per­fume and urine sam­ples. Dr Su­nil Bawaskar was in­stru­men­tal in that, but the feed­back we got was that nawab saab had hi­jacked the en­tire sys­tem. We have been in con­stant touch with vet­eri­nar­i­ans both from MP and Ma­ha­rash­tra, who nar­rated how they were con­cerned by nawab saab’s plans and how he had been dis­re­spect­ful to se­nior for­est of­fi­cials. That’s when we thought he needs to be dealt with se­ri­ously. As­ghar shot T1 in cold blood, us­ing tech­niques to lure the ti­gress given by vets for cap­ture, so some vet­eri­nar­i­ans have de­cided to deal with them legally. Com­pe­tent teams have to be called from within Ma­ha­rash­tra as well as from out­side, es­pe­cially MP vet­eri­nar­i­ans, to cap­ture the cubs.

Dr Prayag HS was part of an ear­lier oper­a­tion to cap­ture T1

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