An inquiry panel has found that several norms were breached during the killing of “man-eating” tigress Avni in Yavatmal, Maharashtra, on November 2, PTI reported. The fact-finding committee that was set up by the National Tiger Conservation Authority to investigate the controversial killing submitted its report on November 28. It is not yet in the public domain.
The six-year-old animal – the mother of two eleven-month-old cubs – had allegedly claimed at least 13 lives in Ralegaon forest since June 2016. Sharpshooter Asgar Ali, son of famous sharpshooter Nawab Shafat Ali, killed her during a hunt operation by the forest department. Maharashtra Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government were severely criticised by many for the manner in which the animal was killed.
The committee’s report casts aspersions on the forest department’s initial claim that the tigress was killed in self-defence, PTI reported. The panel, comprising retired additional principal conservator of forests OP Kaler and non-governmental organisation Wildlife Trust of India’s deputy director Jose Louies, said forester Mukhbir Sheikh and the sharpshooter ignored the advice of veterinary experts. “The dart fired by Sheikh was used approximately 56 hours after being prepared by a veterinarian expert, who had advised Sheikh to use the dart in his presence and within 24 hours,” the report said.
Based on the evidence collected by the panel, the report said Asgar Ali Khan used a weapon licensed in the name of his father, who was not present at the time of the incident. Asgar Ali Khan has not provided any authorisation from his father to use the gun in his absence, the report said. Sheikh, the committee said, was authorised only to identify the tigress or her cubs.
The report said there was no operational coordination between the veterinary professionals and the team that killed the tigress, who was officially known as T1. “The team was not equipped to deal with the sedated tiger. The rapid response team was not available,” the report said.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority is the highest statutory body responsible for providing funding to state governments for tiger conservation.