Experts Furious at Govt-Backed Execution of Tigress Avni
Tigress Avni has left behind two nine-month-old cubs. This is a representational image.
Tigress Avni has left behind two nine-month-old cubs. This is a representational image. (Photo courtesy: Shruti Mathur)

Experts Furious at Govt-Backed Execution of Tigress Avni

Experts are outraged at the one-month-long planned execution of six-year-old Tigress Avni in Maharashtra. Carried out with complete state sanction by the son of a hunter who was not licensed to kill, the Maharashtra Forest Department’s defence is that this was their ‘last resort.’

Withing the last week, two tigers have been killed in India, which is home to 70 percent of the world’s tiger population. Along with Avni was another that was killed by a angry mob of villagers in Uttar Pradesh. The Quint spoke to experts who outlined the numerous issues with her execution.

1. “Avni Cannot Be Called a Man-Eater”

Believed to have killed 13 people since 2016, Tigress Avni was shot dead in Maharashtra's Yavatmal on 2 November. The Maharashtra government reportedly claimed that since ‘Avni had consumed 60 percent of human bodies, she was rightly classified as a man-eater’.

However, activists said the places where the deaths occurred were not in the villages, and hence she may not be labeled a man-eater.

Animal activist, Jennifer Jacob highlights the importance of a standard operating procedure (SOP) that clearly outlines the areas which are the reserves and the guidelines the people and officials have to follow.

Adding, “We need to understand that in that locality, there are other tigers as well. In fact the male mate of Avni is also there.”

Stressing on the importance of communication, Jacob said there needs to be interaction every month between officials and the locals. “Speak to the locals about how they should not move to forests and encroach on their space, respect the animals. If people are not spoken to like this, then there could be another reaction of screaming, “Arre tiger aa gaya mere ghar me. Mar do! ” (Oh god, a tiger has entered my home, kill it!).

2. “Hunter Has a Fetish for Killing Big Cats”

The hunt to kill Avni was also controversial abecause of the hunter employed by the state government. Experts have said that Nawab Shafat Ali has is trigger-happy, with a fetish for killing big cats.

Highlighting the opposition to the Maharashtra government’s desire to kill Tigress Avni, Jacob explained how the issue was petitioned at the Supreme Court.

“There has been a lot of opposition against this exercise. First, there was a shoot-at-sight order given in September, that was again contested. Then the court ordered there will be a trained veterinarian along with the hunter. The court also ordered that only if the tiger attacked, could you shoot. The court order was very clear. When the tigress was killed late at night, there was no veterinarian. No efforts were even made to tranquilise her.”
Jennifer Jacob to The Quint

3. “This Death Was Avoidable”

“We are demanding Avni Act to be created which should stop Chief Wildlife Warden from having the powers to declare an animal a man-eater. Avni Act should abolish all types of hunting, even legalised hunting. You can immobilise the animal, not kill it,” Earth Brigade Foundation Director Sarita Subramanian told The Quint.

“Especially because we are in 2018 and we have snatched so much of green cover and killed so many animals to the extent that species are now endangered,” she added.

Subramanian explains why man-animal conflicts seem to be on the rise – people are encroaching on their land and taking their cattle into the forest to graze, or don't have toilets so go into the forest to relive themselves.

“If the authorities could've made sure the villagers laid a fence around and spoke to the people living near the area, they could've avoided this death,” Subramanian told The Quint.

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