‘Labelling Tigress Avni a Man-eater Violates NTCA Norms’
Wildlife expert from K’taka raises concerns over killing; state govt forms 4-member panel
Mumbai: A week after the tigress T1, or Avni as she was called, was shot by a sharp shooter in the forests of Maharashtra, leading to a massive controversy over the way it was killed, HS Prayag, a former senior veterinary officer of the Karnataka Forest Department, told ET that the move to label the tigress a man-eater by the state government was without any scientific basis and in violation of the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) guidelines.
Prayag, a wildlife expert who was engaged by the Maharashtra government in December last year to trap the tigress, raised a few questions over its recent killing. “I have worked with Shafat Ali Khan (the shar shooter), and I was sure that there was no chance for the animal to be captured alive if he (Ali) was involved in the operations. So, I too participated in the efforts to catch the animal. But when I questioned the officers on what grounds was it labelled a man-eater, I was just told that there were orders from above,” claimed Prayag.
The Maharashtra forest department has claimed that the DNA samples taken from three human kills showed the presence of the tigress. But Prayag argued that the lab report did not identify it as T1, but only identified it as that of a female tigress.
“Even this is suspect as anot- her lab has shown in its report that the same sample to be of a male tiger. So, on what basis have we labelled it as a man-eater?” asked Prayag. Prayag’s arguments have been further strengthened by the postmortem report of Avni, which has shown that it had not eaten for at least 5- 6 days. The Karnataka-based wildlife expert has said that a tiger that had turned into a man-eater would hunt a human prey at least once a week.
“A lactating tigress would in fact kill humans in a much shorter time as she had to feed her cubs too,” pointed out the wildlife expert.
The other aspect of being a man-eating tigers is that they usually turn into man eaters if they have sustained an injury to their paws which prevents them from hunting down their normal preys when they become old. Prayag said that this was not the case with T1 as she did not have any injuries on her legs, and wasn’t old either. The Maharashtra government has formed a four-member committee to find out the facts of whether guidelines or procedures were followed in the shooting of Tigress T1. The committee will probe whether the standard operating procedures (SOP) were followed when the T1Tigress was shot.
BCCL Youth Congress workers protesting against the killing on Nov 5 in Nagpur