Cats' Rocked Cradles
Outlook|November 26, 2018
Cats' Rocked Cradles

Tiger conservation is not about numbers. Avni’s killing stresses the need for curating the big cat eco-system with greater care.

Salik Ahmad

IF it were not for the high-octane, ill-tempered controversy surrounding the killing of a mother tigress, the outpouring of concern from all corners for a tiger would have been an encouraging sign for our times. But the ruthless shooting down of tigress Avni in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district earlier this month, in what seems to be a botched-up operation, gives the whole episode an extremely sordid air. Avni, known as T1 in the forester’s parlance, was dubbed to be a man-eater and accused of taking 13 human lives. A celebrity hunter was roped in by the state forest department, and his team, after weeks of tracking the tigress, put her down.

Soon, indefatigable conservationists were excoriating the forest department and the hunter Shafath Ali Khan in the strongest of terms. Some argued that there was no conclusive proof that the tigress had killed 13 humans, let alone of her having eaten the human kills. Maneka Gandhi, Union minister for women and child development and a vociferous animal rights activist, called Avni’s killing by the hunter’s son ‘patently illegal’. The state forest minister and Gandhi exchanged barbs and the hunter threatened to sue the Union minister following her remarks. The autopsy report showed that the bullet entered the tigress’s torso from one side, thus implying that she wasn’t facing the hunter at the time of shooting, while the hunter’s son had claimed that the tigress had charged at his team. The kind of gun used, claims about the tranquilising effort made, the time of the shooting—all of this have put question marks on the intent and manner of the operation.

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November 26, 2018