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HomeIndiaGovernanceMaharashtra has lost two ‘golden opportunities’ to capture man-eating tigress Avni alive

Maharashtra has lost two ‘golden opportunities’ to capture man-eating tigress Avni alive

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A Maharashtra forest officer has alleged that private hunter Nawab Shafaat Ali Khan cost the team two ‘golden opportunities’ to capture tigress Avni. 

New Delhi: The private hunter brought in by the Maharashtra forest department to help track Avni, the elusive ‘man-eating’ tigress, has lost at least two “golden opportunities” to capture her, a senior state forest officer has alleged.

The hunter has been accused of only wanting to kill the tigress.

In a letter to the Maharashtra chief conservator of forests, the deputy conservator of forests (DCF) of the Pandharkawada division gives specific details about the allegations, exposing a rift within the team out to capture the tigress. It also raises fresh questions about the involvement of the hunter, Nawab Shafaat Ali Khan. The letter was written last month.

Khan has dismissed the allegations against him as “personal vendetta”.

The mission to capture Avni was sanctioned in September by A.K. Misra, Maharashtra’s principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), after he declared the tigress to be a man-eater. Eight deaths since July 2017 have been attributed to the tigress, with five reported within 24 hours this August.

The order, dated 4 September, said: “The efforts to tranquilise and capture T-1 tigress will be continued and if unsuccessful, it shall be eliminated by shooting to avoid any further loss of human life.”

Days later, on 11 September, the order was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court.

Khan, a celebrity hunter brought in by a senior forest officer in Maharashtra, has been described as “bloodthirsty” by wildlife activists, with many questioning his involvement in a mission primarily aimed at capturing and tranquilising the six-year-old tigress and her two 10-month-old cubs.

Also read: Maharashtra’s out to kill ‘man-eater’ Avni, but shooting her is supposed to be the last resort

According to the DCF’s letter, Khan deliberately concealed information about a reported sighting of Avni early on in the operation, sabotaged the forest department’s attempts to capture the tigress and created a media frenzy around the case.

This letter assumes significance in light of the range of efforts made over the past 45 days to capture Avni: The Maharashtra forest department has not only deployed top forest officers and personnel for the mission, but also brought in sniffer dogs, trap cameras, drones and a hang-glider.

‘Golden opportunities missed’

“There were two golden opportunities to execute the chief wildlife warden’s order in a very prompt and scientific way but this was missed,” the DCF wrote in his letter.

The failure to seize the opportunities could be attributed to Khan, he added. According to the DCF, Khan “messed up the whole operation” by not sharing information with his office in a timely manner.

“On 14/09/2018, despite knowing that all other teams are extensively searching for the T1 and cubs since on 12/9/2018, information (about a sighting) was strategically concealed for more than 14 hours,” he said.

“Had it been informed to any of the team members on 14/9/2018 itself, the elephants could have been deployed to execute the [capture] order. Had it been intimated to the team… immediately, the whole team should have been worked (sic) together to attain a result,” he added.

Rumour and fear-mongering

The DCF has also accused Khan of reporting untruths and spreading rumours about cattle deaths to create frenzy.

However, the letter added, the forest department team posted in the area for a year had never been told of any such complaints among the villagers.

“In this regard, (a) detailed police investigation has been requested to avoid any future law and order situation,” he added.

Moreover, he said, while “it is very clearly mentioned that no one speak to press/media except the spokesperson”, Khan has routinely given interviews that “rose (sic) so many legal questions”

Also read: Delhi zoo director ‘confirms’ animal deaths are being covered up, records fudged

The insinuation here is that Khan has resorted to rumour- and fear-mongering in order to create a frenzy around the issue, a source familiar with the case said on the condition of anonymity.

As a result, “the local administration is facing so many questions/problems/criticism which have never been arose (sic) earlier in this past one year”, the DCF said.

“Now, the T-1 capture mission has become secondary and the local department is spending more time in solving confusions, rumours, communication gap and other insignificant issues,” he added.

‘Personal vendetta’

Denying all allegations, Khan told ThePrint: “We are all working in tandem as a team, and there is no concealment of information.”

Since the forest department had failed to capture the tigress, sections of the department were making attempts to “brainwash villagers”, he added.

As far as speaking to the media is concerned, he said it was “unavoidable” given the attention the case is receiving.

Asked about allegations that he is a trigger-happy shooter who is more interested in killing the tigress than capturing her, he said, “I was brought in when every other trick of the trade failed to capture the tigress… She has become a man-eater, so what is the option left?”

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  1. It’s easy to shoot an animal even if sighted far away as compared to tranquilising which has to be done at close range. The say of the DCF doesn’t hole water. The blood thirsty Nawab would have killed the tigress given the slightest chance.

  2. Animal activist are a big part of the problem. They are like a foreign epidemic desease, like Dengue and Swine flu is foreign to India . They should be dealth with accordingly by handing them over to the relatives of the man-eater’s victims. Any person or Organisation which tries to aid or protect a dangerous animal that kills human beings should be arrested and charged for aiding and abetment to murder. The District Administration should order their soon so the Court Order can be implemented.

  3. Animal rights villians are a big part of the problem, like Dengue and Swine flu in India. They are a foreign disease which has infiltrated from the Western countries. They have no respect for the law or Court order. We need to get rid of them by handing them over to the villagers whose relatives were killed. Then only there is a chance for T1 capture and incarceration. I am sure it is looking forward to its fate !

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