The state sponsored killing of the Bengal tigress Avni (technically named as T1) in south eastern Maharashtra in western India has caught the attention of media, wildlife enthusiasts and conservators across the globe. A massive tiger hunt employing 200+ personnel, five elephants, two specialized search dogs, drones and a paraglider have been pressed into service to either tranquilize her; and if not possible put her down based on a court order released by the Supreme Court of India. T1 has been charged guilty of being a man-eater and tentatively connected to death of 13 villages. The tigress has two young cubs accompanying her and the order directs the Forest Department to collect the two cubs in case the tigress is killed. Again there are claims and counter claims suggesting that the tigress is a true man-eater or being wrongly implicated in the crime. Mostly the evidences are grossly circumstantial and this particular case has moved through several courts and corridors of administration and finally a death sentence has been ordered without any water tight evidence against the so called culprit.
Chances are that even if T1 is the real culprit; some other animal may get killed to pay to the gallery who are vowing for her extermination. The other alternative is that an animal will be killed as Indian Forest Department is completely incapable of administering proper dosage of tranquilizer post 70 years of Indian independence. Even in the past in case of life threatening incidents both Forest Department and zoo authorities across the nation have failed to find a dart gun, load it and administer proper dosage of correct tranquilizer designated for specific animal based on their body weight. In most cases targets were missed or the animal died to due to tranquilizer overdose as very little training is conducted for forest personnel to eve know these simple facts. The complete lack of skills, training and standard operating procedures for the management of wildlife in India has been paid heavily by innocent and defenceless wildlife in this country.
I would like to raise the question as how this could be clearly ascertained that the target tigress was a man eater? Has any wildlife trap camera snap and/or CCTV footage identified it based on spot patterns or provided any credible evidence for being a man eater? Has any direct coprology analysis of the leopard scat being made in the laboratory to identify human remains or any credible advanced DNA test done on the tigress scat to make sure there is human DNA in its scat? Why could the animal be tranquilized with powerful and prescribed sedatives and retained in a wildlife rehabilitation center or a zoo for further inspection and observation? Why could not this animal be captured and transferred to a secured zoo where it could spend its last days; instead why killing the tigress is considered the only option when numerous other alternatives are available? What kind of wildlife management practices do the State and Central governments have when they could even protect an endangered species?
This is not the only case reported in recent times. The brutal killing of a so called ‘man-eater’ female leopard by professional hunters in remote Uttarakhand under government patronage has also sent shockwaves around the globe. I extend my strongest protest to both the unfortunate attitude of State and Central Government towards conservation of endangered wild cats. The IUCN 2018 poster has clearly stated leopards across the globe to have vulnerable IUCN status and that it has become extinct in six countries across Africa and Asia. The Indian or South Asian leopard is the most abundant of all the leopard sub species across the continent of Asia and is severely impacted by habitat loss and leopard-animal conflict. Several states in India consider killing unfortunate wildlife as the only viable option; when these unfortunate animals stray into human habitats like tigers, leopards, elephants, hyenas, gaurs etc. I humbly request the governments to kindly take timely action and develop a comprehensive conservation policy to protect helpless wildlife of a megabiodiverse nation like India. Lastly it is quite shameful that several regional and national newspapers across India (covering both English and vernaculars) seem to be promoting and glorifying the ambiguous killing of wildlife with pride and honor! The publication of images of dead wildlife lying dead at the feet of the designated ‘hunters’ with their prized trophy is unacceptable and shocking. This only promotes poaching and illegal hunting among those who are always bent upon exterminating defenseless wildlife across India. This is also a negative image imprinted on the minds of young kids who will look for wildlife news in your esteemed daily. I strongly condemn the action of a section of Indian media in glorifying the brutal killing of defenseless wildlife that could not voice for itself or vote for any political party.
Saikat Kumar Basu,