The Hindu Explains: From Mudra loans to the hunt for ‘killer’ tigress T-1

Maharashtra, where a massive hunt is on to track tigress Avani

A tigress at the Tippeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district. Photo: Special Arrangement  

For over a week now, more than 100 Forest Department officials, guards, tranquillising experts, shooters, trackers, rescue teams, veterinarians and two elephants, brought from Madhya Pradesh, have been carrying out a massive hunt for a tigress in the Ralegaon area of Yavatmal district of Maharashtra.

What happened?

They are looking for a tigress, named T-1, or Avani, who has terrorised the region with her alleged killing spree for over a year now. As they spread out into the forests, hundreds of wildlife activists took out a march in Nagpur, about 180 km from Yavatmal, on Wednesday, protesting against the Forest Department’s move to rope in a “private hunter” who, they believe, will kill the tigress rather than tranquillise her.

When did the problem surface?

The first human killing, attributed to the tigress, happened in June 2016, and she is said to have killed 13 villagers in the area until August 28, prompting the Forest Department to issue orders to shoot her. Around 20,000 people in 26 villages of the area have been living in fear.

The earlier orders were to tranquillise and catch the big cat. “The tracking and tranquillising efforts have been going on for eight months. But when three villagers were killed in August, the earlier order was cancelled and a new order was issued that it should be tranquillised and if that fails, then it should be shot,” says A.K. Mishra, Maharashtra’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife). What is making it difficult to track the movement of the tigress is the heavy growth of the forest due to the monsoon rain, he adds.

Maharashtra, where a massive hunt is on to track tigress Avani

Why are activists irked?

Wildlife activists allege that there is no proof to attribute 13 killings to the tigress. Jyrryl Banait, a wildlife lover, twice moved court to save it. According to Mr. Banait, there is no concrete evidence. “There is no DNA analysis, and other scientific data are missing. The evidence is based on visual citing, pugmarks and camera traps, which does not mean that she is a man-eater.” He points out that there are seven other tigers roaming in the same territory, besides two cubs of the tigress as well.

What happened in court?

When the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court rejected the petitions of Mr. Banait and other activists, they moved a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court. It refused to interfere with the High Court’s order and dismissed the petition on September 11.

“The efforts to tranquillise and capture the T-1 tigress will be continued, and if unsuccessful, it shall be eliminated by shooting to avoid any further loss of human life. The CCF(T), Yavatmal, is authorised to carry out this order and he shall not declare any prize or incentive for the responsible person,” a Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta ordered.

What lies ahead?

The activists say they respect the Supreme Court’s order but want the Forest Department to follow a proper procedure to track the animal. The activists’ opposition has forced the State government to send back private hunter Nawab Shafaat Ali Khan from Hyderabad, who was roped in by the Forest Department.

The activists had described Mr. Khan as being “trigger happy with a notorious record.” Mr. Banait says the tigress should be tranquillised and brought back to safety. The Forest Department, which had been backing the hunter despite several allegations by the activists, has sought the help of shooters from Madhya Pradesh to help catch the tigress by tranquillising her.

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Printable version | Aug 2, 2021 12:58:31 PM |

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