An irate Union Minister Maneka Gandhi has taken on the Maharashtra government for the "brutal murder" of 6-year-old tigress Avni, who was shot dead with an alleged ‘man-eater’ claim on November 2.
The mother of two nine-month-old cubs from Yavatmal district near Nagpur was shot by Asghar Ali, the son of hunter Shafat Ali, who believed along with the Forest Department and villagers, that she was a ‘man-eater’ after the deaths of at least 13 people over the period of 18 months.
Maneka Gandhi, an animal-rights activist and environmentalist herself, through a series tweets expressed her grief at the ‘murder’ of the Royal Bengal Tigress. Condemning the Forest Minister of Maharashtra, she called this an act of crime, expressed her disgust at the act, going on to blame hunter Shafat Ali Khan for killing 3 tigers, 10 leopards, a few elephants and 300 wild boars in Chandrapur district, close to Nagpur, calling him anti-national.
She included Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis into the loop of tweets and promised to take this matter up legally, criminally and politically.
Back in September, the SC had permitted Avni to be shot at sight, provoking a burst of petitions seeking pardon for the feline with two young cubs.
In the last two months, the government had spent almost Rs 60-70 lakhs on the search operations. Forest department had hired elephants, thermal drones, perfumes, sniffer dogs, paraglider, more than hundred trap cameras. More than 200 people including private & forest department shooters were involved in the search operations. Though every time, Avni somehow managed to elude to capture in camera. But on Friday, shooters sighted her in 149 Borati and killed her.
PETA India too released a statement saying that the illegal killing was persuaded to satisfy the hunter's lust for blood, pain, and simple, in possible contempt of court. They also added that she may not have died instantly but slowly, through pain and blood loss, and likely in front of her now orphaned and vulnerable cubs in apparent violation of the Wildlife Protection Act and the guidelines of National Tiger Conservation Authority. This encouraged that the matter must be investigated and treated as a wildlife crime. Whether sanctioned by the state or not, nobody can be above the law. They called this a dark day for the nation and that we must hang our heads in shame now, and again if this killing goes unpunished.
Wildlife Conservation Trust President Anish Andheria laid down the anthropogenic threats that are already pushing the Royal Bengal Tiger to the brink.
The big cat faces poaching to cater to the international markets, secondly poaching of prey for consumption of locals and the threat of forest degradation caused by uncontrolled grazing, fuelwood collection and man-induced forest fires. Another emerging threat is that of forest fragmentation led by developmental projects. And finally, retaliatory killing with the mounting animal-man conflict.
The current Royal Bengal Tiger census of the country is approximately 2000.