The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued contempt notices to Maharashtra Principal Secretary Vikas Kharge and eight other officials for announcing a reward for killing Avni, an adult tigress, reported Live Law. Avni, believed to be a man-eater, was killed in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district in 2018.
Wildlife researcher Sangeet Dogra, who filed the petition, said that the reward was granted flouting court orders. In 2018, the top court had said that no reward or incentive should be given for the killing of the tigress. Dogra also claimed that Avni was killed on baseless allegations that she was responsible for death of 13 people. The notice was also issued to state Chief Wildlife Warden AK Mishra.
Avni, officially known as T1, was killed on November 2, 2018, following a massive hunt involving 200 paragliders, trap cameras, drones, a pack of trained sniffer dogs and a hang-glider to trace her.
Dogra alleged that the state authorities had arranged a function after the hunt and a silver idol was given to sharp-shooter Asgar Ali, reported NDTV. “This certainly is an act of trophy hunting which was gifted through the hands of villagers...,” she said.
Dogra also submitted an autopsy report of the tigress to the court, saying that it shows that Avni was not a man-eater. “How does a post mortem show if an animal is a man-eater or not,” Chief Justice SA Bobde asked. The petitioner told the court that a man-eater would have nails and hair in the intestine for six months but Avni’s stomach was empty.
However, the bench was not convinced and sought more clarity on the matter. “We want to see clear findings that human nails, hair, teeth or whatever, does not disappear for a period of six months and that no such thing was found in [the tigress’s] intestine,” Bobde said. “Show us…she was not a man-eater. We will issue notice also.”
Earlier too, questions were raised on the killing of the tigress. Multiple reports had found discrepancies between what the hunting team had said about animal’s death and its autopsy. The team had claimed Avni was killed in self-defence, while evidence showed otherwise. Forest department officials had been told to shoot the animal only if the tranquillisers failed, as per Supreme Court orders. She was also shot at night, which is against the norms, and with a weapon that is not prescribed for killing such tigers.