Avni, a suspected man-eater, was killed in a late-night operation in the small hours of Saturday.
New Delhi: Tigress Avni, an alleged man-eater, was shot dead in Maharashtra Saturday, reportedly in violation of guidelines issued by the forest department and the Supreme Court.
By late Saturday morning, there was no word on the fate of her two cubs.
According to reports, Avni was shot dead by the son of the controversial Hyderabad-based hunter Nawab Shafat Ali Khan, who was hired by the Maharashtra forest department for the operation to capture the tigress.
Khan’s involvement in the operation had evoked massive protests from wildlife experts and animal rights activists.
Forest officials did not respond to calls by ThePrint to explain why Khan’s son Asghar, who was not hired for the operation, was present at the site.
The forest department as well as the Supreme Court had earlier stated and reiterated that the primary objective of the operation was to tranquilise and capture Avni, with killing proposed only as the last alternative.
However, Avni appears to have been shot during the night, between sunset and sunrise, which is prohibited under the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) protocol.
“Efforts to dart the animal were simply never made,” said Dr Jerryl Banait, who had filed a petition against the shooting of Avni. “The shooter was hired with the intention of killing the tigress, and that is what has happened – it is a cold-blooded murder.”
On an earlier occasion, Khan had expressed his reluctance to dart the mother of two cubs, because it would be “legally tricky”. Speaking to ThePrint, he had said, “The NTCA prohibits darting of animals at night, and during the day, it is impossible to spot her.”
In fact, as reported by ThePrint earlier, forest officials had shot off at least two written complaints that clearly stated that “two golden opportunities” to capture the tigress were lost because of Khan’s actions.
According to a letter written by the chief conservator of forests to principal conservator of forests A.K. Mishra, who had hired Khan, the hunter chose not to cooperate with forest department officials right from the beginning, and instead went on speaking to the media – despite orders that prohibited him to do so.
According to another letter by the deputy conservator of forests, 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 – ostensibly to create support for Avni’s killing.
Over the last one year, the Maharashtra forest department had been trying to nab the tigress, believed to have killed at least five people. Her fate eventually landed at the doorstep of the Supreme Court, which said the tigress may be killed only if all efforts to tranquilise her fail.
This report was updated with the correct spelling of hunter Shafat Ali Khan.