Tigress Avni was shot dead as a last resort when all attempts to tranquilise her failed and she attacked officials, said Maharashtra Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar Sunday.
The tigress, T1, as she was known officially, was shot Friday night by sharp-shooter Asgar Ali in compartment no 149 of Borati forest under the jurisdiction of Ralegaon police station in the state’s Yavatmal district.
Speaking to PTI, Mr. Mungantiwar said nobody in the Forest Department wanted to kill the tigress and, thus, hundreds of personnel from the department were trying to capture her alive for the last three months.
He added that there was unrest among local farmers and Adivasis after she had reportedly killed 13 people in the past two years. “Ministers and secretaries do not sit in Mumbai and protect forest and animal species. It is done by farmers and Adivasis. In this case, there was a lot of unrest among them. We didn’t want them to eventually become enemies of wildlife,” Mr. Mungantiwar said.
He added that all possible means were tried to capture the animal, but it had to be shot down to save the lives of forest staff trying to tranquilise her.
He further said the right to kill wild species did not lie with his department and that the Centre and the Supreme Court have laid down stringent guidelines for the purpose. After following these guidelines and holding deliberations with concerned officials, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest gives an order to shoot an animal, he added.
When queried about the two cubs of the deceased tigress, Mr. Mungantiwar said that the two were now nearly 11 months old and capable of survival in the wild.
“Yet, the Forest Department will ensure their upkeep,” he said.
Taking a dig at NGOs criticising the killing of Avni, the minister said the government had been at the forefront of saving tigers on a mission mode and has roped in film megastar Amitabh Bachchan for the purpose. “When we plant trees, NGOs do not come forward and lend a helping hand. When we plan programmes for saving endangered species, they do not say a word. We could not have let humans die to save an animal,” he said.
In September this year, the Supreme Court had said Avni could be shot at sight, which prompted a flurry of online petitions seeking pardon for the tigress.
Animals rights organisation PETA India condemned the killing. Its Lead Emergency Response Coordinator, Meet Ashar, in a statement Saturday said, “Avni was killed illegally satisfying a hunter’s lust for blood in possible contempt of court and in apparent violation of the Wildlife Protection Act and the guidelines of National Tiger Conservation Authority.”
“This matter must be investigated and treated as a wildlife crime. Whether sanctioned by the state or not, nobody can be above the law. This is a dark day for our nation and we must hang out heads in shame now and again if this killing goes unpunished,” the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals functionary said.