Avni, the tigress that is said to have killed 13 villagers, was shot dead near Borati village in Yavatmal on Friday night by a team of Forest Department officials and civilian hunter Asgar Ali. The incident triggered outrage among wildlife activists, who alleged that no efforts were made to tranquillise Avni and called it “murder in cold blood.”
Officials said a team of three Forest Department personnel and Mr. Ali shot the tigress, officially known as T-1, on the Borati-Warud Road in Yavatmal.
“Since the crop is ripe and the villagers spend the night in the fields to protect it, Forest Department teams have been regularly patrolling the farmland and forest patches,” said a forest officer. “An alert had been sounded in the area since October 25, when the tigress was last spotted. On Friday, the tigress was spotted by villagers on the Borati-Warud road since 6.45 p.m. and we received several phone calls.”
Friday was also bazaar day in Ralegaon. The patrolling team, along with Mr. Ali, was stationed in the area. “The team sighted the tigress several times for brief periods. After ascertaining her identity, one member attempted to fire a tranquilliser dart, which missed her, and she charged at the team. In self-defence , Mr. Ali fired from about 8-10 metres,” the official said, adding the incident occurred around 11.30 p.m.
The tigress was shifted to Gorewada in Nagpur for post-mortem.
‘State-sponsored fake encounter’
The killing of Avni in Yavatmal has caused outrage among wildlife activists.
Sarita Subramanian of the Earth Brigade Foundation, which has been fighting against the order to kill Avni, termed the killing a “state-sponsored fake encounter.” “The court ordered to shoot the animal as a last resort, and with a proper squad comprising a wildlife biologist and tranquillising specialist,” Dr. Subramanian said. “The Maharashtra government, the non-government organisation responsible for camera footage, and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests have not only shown disregard to the court’s judgement but also tampered with evidence. If they could shoot the tigress from such a close distance, they could have easily tranquillised her. This whole argument of self-defence is a farce,” she said.
She said she would continue to fight the matter in court and also expressed concern for Avni’s cubs.
“The cubs will not be able to survive without the mother. How will the courts and the Forest Minister answer that,” she asked.
In a statement released on Saturday, Meet Ashar, Emergency Response Coordinator with the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, said, “Avni was killed illegally satisfying a hunter’s lust for blood, plain and simple, in possible contempt of court and in apparent violation of the Wildlife Protection Act and the guidelines of the National Tiger Conservation Authority. She may not have died instantly but slowly, through pain and blood loss, and likely in front of her now orphaned and vulnerable cubs. This matter must be investigated and treated as a wildlife crime.”