In the wake of swirling controversies around the killing of Tigress Avni, Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, speaking to Republic TV, narrated his version of the incident and responded to the contentions of Maneka Gandhi, Union Minister.
In response to the minister's contentions regarding him having given the orders for the killing of Avni "despite requests from many stakeholders", Munganriwar claimed that Gandhi lacked awareness of the entire incident and that she should restrain herself from making such comments. He even accused President of Shiv Sena, Aditya Thackeray of tailing the crowd with his stance in the matter.
He said, “I don’t think Maneka Gandhi is fully aware of what has happened. Why hasn’t she tweeted about the killing of a tiger in Uttar Pradesh. Why is she silent?”
“She shouldn’t make such comments. How is the ministry responsible? Aaditya Thackeray saw others tweeting and he followed the same. No need to make this political,” he further added.
Maneka Gandhi in her tweet accused Shafat Ali Khan, the father of Avni’s shooter, of killing 3 tigers, at least 10 leopards, a few elephants and 300 wild boars, and slammed the Maharashtra government for hiring him. In response, the Forest Minister backed the private hunter.
He said, “The private hunter that you are talking about has also been rewarded by other governments”
To the multiple accusations of procedural failures and on criticism of the entire plot of killing tigress Avni, the minister responded saying,
“If we had intentions of killing then we would have done so two months ago. It’s been a long operation, we have followed the Supreme Court guidelines.”
The Maharashtra Forest Ministry provided a comprehensive account of the incident-
The ‘man-eater’ T-1 Tigress was responsible for creating dread in the area for nearly two and a half years. From June 1, 2016, to January 2018, 13 people died in this area, some were injured and large livestock loss was reported. There was a threat to the lives of villagers. The problem of livelihood was created due to the closure of their fields.
Technical Advisors and Monitoring Committees are working in which representatives of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), experts and representatives of NGOs in the Wildlife Sector, representatives of Local Body Institutes and Veterinary Institutes.
According to the committee's suggestions, the report was sent to the Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Guard, Nagpur, to kill the tigress. He directed that the respective Regional Officers should take further action, instead of killing the tigress, the High Court gave an order on February 2, 2018, to tranquillize her. Accordingly, until August 2018, all the concerned Project Team and Special Tiger Conservation Force tried but failed to seize her.
Three people died in August spreading more fear and panic. Local people and public representatives were agitating for settlement. After receiving all the evidence, under section 11 (1) (a) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the proposal to kill the Tigress was reissued.
The order was issued on September 2, 2018, for the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden, Nagpur that they should capture tigress, and if not, she should be killed. The order was also issued to send the two cubs to a rescue center.
Hon’ble High Court and Hon’ble Supreme Court upheld this order. Considering the collective betterment of the people, senior forest officials started proceedings on this campaign. All the tools, facilities, four trained elephants, two trained Italian dogs, Paragliders and 200 forest officials were deployed to search for the tiger day in and day out. Local people and public representatives were also involved in the operation along with sharp-shooters Nawab Shafaat Ali Khan and Asgar Ali Khan.
On November 2, 2018, at block no.149, the Borati-Verde-Ralegaon roadway the team spotted the tigress. She tried to attack after she was shot with tranquillizer dart and subsequently she was shot. Earlier, due to continuous monitoring and , we were had been able to avoid loss of life for the past two months. The farmers were given adequate security and even educated on local travel and after dark precautions to be taken.
Tranquillizer gun was used when first attempting to subdue the tigress. But tigress was not unconscious and tried to attack the squad in the open gypsy. This was when sharp-shooter Azghar Ali shot the tigress at a distance of 8-10 metres, killing her.
The body was sent to the post-mortem. Tigress's body was cremated after that. Postmortem report is not yet available. Now the search to capture the all the sub-adult cubs is going