Tigress Avni shot dead: Politicians, wildlife activists call for investigation into killing of T1

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GR News Desk | New Delhi

Days after Tigress Avni, or officialy designated as T1, was killed after a two-month-long of hunt in the forests of Yavatmal in Maharashtra, activists and wildlife conservationists have raised questions on the modus operandi of killing the ‘maneater’ animal. A total of 13 people were killed in and round the forest by tigers, six confirmed kills by T1 alone in span of two years.

Adding to the criticism for going ahead with the shoot order released by the Forest Department and upheld by the Supreme Court, Congress president Rahul Gandhi Monday said, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Gandhi was preceded by Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi who raised allegations on the nature of ‘murder’ of the animal and said, “I am deeply saddened by the way tigress Avni has been brutally murdered in Yavatmal.”

In a series of tweets, Maneka Gandhi said, “It is nothing but a straight case of crime. Despite several requests from many stakeholders, Sudhir Mungantiwar, Minister for Forests, Maharashtra, gave orders for the killing. He has been doing this regularly and this is the third tiger being murdered besides several leopards and wild boars. Every time he has used Hyderabad-based shooter Shafat Ali Khan, and this time his son has also appeared in the scene illegally to murder the tigress. His son was not authorised to kill. This is patently illegal. Despite the forest officials being committed to tranquilise, capture and qurantine the tigress, the trigger-happy shooter has killed her on his own under orders of Mungantiwar. This ghastly murder has put two cubs at the edge of a sad death in the absence of their mother.”

Calling the authoristed shooter tasked with hunting Avni, Shafat Ali Khan a criminal, she adde, ” Shafat Ali Khan has killed 3 tigers, at least 10 leopards, a few elephants and 300 wild boar in Chandrapur, Maharashtra. He is a criminal known for supplying guns to anti- nationals and for a suspected case of murder in Hyderabad.”

The six-year-old tigress was killed late at night by sharpshooter Asgar Ali, son of Nawab Shafat Ali last week. Her two cubs who are around 10 months old are taken into captivity.The activists have raised questions around the timing of the killing sighting provisions of National Tiger Conservation Authority protocol.They also alleged that Asgar Ali did not had the permission to dart the tigress, however the authorities have denied the allegations.

PETA India too stepped up and called it a dark day for India. In a ststement the animal rights body said, “Avni was killed illegally satisfying a hunter’s lust for blood, plain and simple, in possible contempt of court. This matter must be investigated and treated as a wildlife crime. Whether sanctioned by the state or not, nobody can be above the law. This is a dark day for our nation and we must hang our heads in shame now, and again if this killing goes unpunished.”

The shoot order was released by the Forest Department after farmers complained about several killings in the area. However the Bombay High Court had stayed the order which was later overruled by the Supreme Court.