As man-animal conflicts increase across the country, his ‘skill’ becomes more and more indispensable, says celebrity hunter Nawab Shafat Ali Khan.
New Delhi: He has no lust for killing animals — he has killed enough in his life to still be baying for animal blood, says Nawab Shafat Ali Khan, the celebrity hunter from Hyderabad who has been hired by the Maharashtra government to eliminate the elusive ‘man-eating’ tigress Avni.
But when human life is in danger, he has to do what he does best — kill the animal in cold blood.
A quick Google search of Khan’s images gives an idea of his skills or cruelty — depending on which side the animal rights debate is on. Brandishing his guns and lording over corpses of felled tigers, elephants, boars and leopards, the 61-year-old poses for photographs with an unmissable glint in his eyes.
Also read: ‘Bloodthirsty’ hunter is the reason why ‘man-eater’ tigress Avni is still on the loose
But his killings are now limited to those sanctioned by the state. As man-animal conflicts increase across the country, his “skill”, argues Khan, becomes more and more indispensable.
Last month, in a move which kicked up quite a storm, Khan was roped in by the Maharashtra forest department to eliminate the six year-old tigress, who has reportedly devoured five people so far.
“Nobody understands animal psychology like me…I can tell the pugmark of a tiger from a tigress, this is the kind of expertise I bring to the table,” he says.
The scion of an aristocratic family of Hyderabad, hunting is in Khan’s genes. His grandfather hunted for sport, a practice that was banned in India in 1972. As a child, Khan revelled in the company of guns. So back in 1962, when he was just five, he got a trophy for rifle shooting.
‘Jim Corbett of modern times’
But the controversial hunter is known more for his unforgiving ability to eliminate animals than his understanding of animal psychology — at least among wildlife activists.
“He has the instinct of a killer…He is a trophy hunter,” says animal rights activist Gauri Malulekhi.
“Even with Avni, he only seems interested to kill the animal, never mind the court’s order that the killing should be done as a last resort,” she adds.
While the Supreme Court categorically said in its order that the tigress should be killed only if all other measures fail, Khan is clear in his mission: Avni or T1, as she officially called, is a man-eater and she has to be taken out of the system.
“I have been called when all the tricks of the trade have been exhausted…What is the other option?” he says.
“I am like the Jim Corbett of modern times — a hunter and conservationist. I am doing exactly what he did…So if he is celebrated, and has a national park named after him, why am I rebuked?” says the 61-year old, who claims to be “a resource” for six state governments grappling with the menace of man-animal conflicts.
A chequered past
It is not as though Khan has never tranquillised an animal, or kills it at the first given opportunity, he says.
“I have tranquillised so many man-eating animals and rescued them…If I was only interested to kill, I would go to Africa and hunt to my satisfaction,” he says.
However, he is ultimately a shooter, and what gives him an edge over forest officers, who he largely considers incompetent, is his ability to shoot. “What gives me the edge and courage in a jungle is my ability to shoot a tiger when it is on top of me…forest officers can’t do that, veterinary experts can’t do that.”
But the past record of the Nawab does not inspire much confidence among wildlife experts.
In 2016, Khan made national headlines when he killed 250 nilgais in different districts of Bihar after the antelope was declared vermin.
“When he was hired to kill nilgais in Bihar, he was killing them with weapons banned under the Arms Act,” Maulekhi alleges.
Khan has a chequered past when it comes to weapons. In 1991, he was arrested by the Karnataka police for allegedly supplying weapons to Maoists.
Then again in 2005, he was caught by the Karnataka CID (forests) for what was seen as his shooting expeditions — an act punishable under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The case was eventually dropped.
Years later, Khan was also pulled up by Himachal Pradesh authorities for killing two leopards at Thunag in Mandi district, when he was asked to put down a man-eating tiger.
Khan, however, dismisses these allegations as “personal vendetta”. He says what he is doing is “social service” for poor villagers.
Animals, which become a threat to human life, ought to be eliminated, he says.
Also read: Maharashtra’s out to kill ‘man-eater’ Avni, but shooting her is supposed to be the last resort
“In fact, I would go on to say that the carcasses of these animals should be paraded to assuage the villagers whose family members they kill…What I am doing is social service,” says Khan.
“All the animal rights activists who criticise me, I invite them to the forest and see the ground situation here…The people who criticise me are just activists sitting in air-conditioned rooms.”
…seems to me that this excuse for a human being is the threat to life…he is so puffed up with his own importance that he can’t stop himself…that makes him a danger to all life not just animals, as far as i’m concerned…
I am shocked -The Print has lost all credibility by this almost one sided article. The T1 tiger Avni has not been proved to be a man eater. But I guess, your lazy journalist couldn’t be bothered to do her homework. This truly is a paid feature, more like a public relations print esp given the disgusting headline.
Dirty Harry. Someone has to get his hands unclean to keep the city safe for law abiding people.
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