“Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter”
NGOs, citizens, activists and animal lovers are roaring on social media and on the streets across the country against the death sentence that has been served to a tigress, T1 or Avni, at Pandharkawada’s Tipeshwar forest after she was labelled a ‘man-eater’. Maharashtra Forest Department and Nagpur bench Bombay High Court ordered the death sentence.
An online petition has been started with the hashtag #LetAvniLive and people have poured on the streets demanding the death sentence to be reversed.
The tigress in question, Avni, has been accused of killing 13 people after 13 bodies were found in her territory. Activists said that the first body was found in 2016 after an industrialist bought 437 hectares of land inside the forest in hopes of establishing a cement factory. The land was sold off this January.
Activists have claimed that the animal herself has never ventured out of the forest and it is us, humans who have encroached on their lands. They say that the area in question is rampant with illegal cattle grazing and a lot of industries have also cropped up there. These have let to the ‘man-animal conflict.’
Dr Sarita Subramaniam of Earth Brigade Foundation, that is working with National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) said “We have less than 1,700 tigers in the country. Tigers are territorial. But with the government taking away places for them to grow naturally in the wild, it corrupts their gene pool. It is slowly killing them,” reported The Hindu.
Another point to note is that out of the 13 bodies that were found, only 3 underwent forensic analysis. Out of the three, only one of them tested positive for a female tiger DNA. The Maharashtra forest department claimed that Avni consumed 60% of a human corpse in September, which made them issue a ‘shoot-at-site’ notice for the tigress who is the mother of two cubs.
Why kill, when you can tranquilise?
After petitions were filed against the death order, it was challenged in the Bombay High Court, where the forest department maintained that the humans lost their lives and were eaten by the tigress. Bombay High Court ordered the forest department to go-ahead and implement its order to tranquillize or shoot the tigress. Suman Virwani said that the NTCA issued a letter asking the forest department to not kill Avni and if they fail to comply with the order, action could be taken against them.
The Maharashtra government invited controversial shooter Shafat Ali Khan, who has now been joined by his son Asgar Ali Khan and Jyoti Randhawa. Initially, they denied knowledge of his presence in the forest, even when villagers claimed that they heard clear bullet shots coming from the forest.
Kamna Pandey, Animal Rights Activist wrote that Shafat is reported to have arrived in Pandharkawada on 5th October 2018 and has been leading the hunting operation without the presence of any tranquillising expert. Expert vets are also not accompanying the hunting party, as ‘tranquilising’ is not even in the forest department’s mind anymore.
What will happen to her cubs?
Many activists have urged that when the animal can be tranquilised, why kill her? They ask, what will happen to her cubs when she is dead? It is obvious that her cubs would not be able to survive in the forest without their mother, so they would either become decorative pieces in the zoo or die slowly.
Citizens and activists across the country have poured in on the streets to protest against this order. Activists are angry over the Supreme Court’s decision for not interfering in the matter. Many TV stars like Anju Mahendroo, Divya Seth Shah, Manav Gohil have also come on video, urging the authorities not to kill the tigress. The protest to save Avni has even reached UK, USA and Canada.
Actor and screenwriter Anant Narayan Mahadevan in a video said “This is a fervent plea to the Maharashtra Forest Department to spare the life of Avni, the tigress and her cubs. It is indeed unfortunate that the man-animal conflict has escalated to such an extent that we have to turn inhuman and eradicate a species like the Tigers, who are very important for the ecological balance. I believe they have as much right to life as all of us.”
Actor Anju Mahendroo asks “Why is the Maharashtra forest department putting her down?…we have encroached on their land. The forest belongs to the animals, not to us.”
The Logical Indian Take
India’s growing population has confined wildlife to the ever-shrinking forests and grasslands. Reports have come out which show that between the years 2014-2017, one person lost his/her life every day because of the man-animal conflict.
The growth of human settlement is considered an economic development, but it is the animals who are paying a heavy price as they are competing with humans for food and shelter. Wildlife experts have said that territorial animals lack space within reserves and their prey also lack enough fodder to survive on. This forces wild animals to move out and venture close to human habitation in search of food.
It is us who are encroaching on their land and taking away their livelihood. It is us who are killing them. We should not let go of our sense of humanity and kill a mother of two. Let’s spare the life of Avni and her two cubs. Please sign the petition here.