Celebration of tigress Avni's 'murder' angers wildlife lovers

Updated: Nov 04, 2019, 07:39 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav | Mumbai

Villagers in Yavatmal district felicitate shooter Asghar Ali Khan, who killed Avni on Nov 2 last year

Asghar Ali Khan (speaking on mic) with his father Nawab Shafat Ali Khan (seated, in spectacles) at the event in Wedshi
Asghar Ali Khan (speaking on mic) with his father Nawab Shafat Ali Khan (seated, in spectacles) at the event in Wedshi

Felicitation of the 'killers' of Tigress T1, famously known as Avni, by locals of 19 villages in Yavatmal district has left activists and animal lovers fuming. The villagers presented the award to Asghar Ali Khan and his father Nawab Shafat Ali Khan on November 2, a year after Avni was killed by Asghar.

The 'poor farmers, locals and sarpanch of the 19 affected villages' organised the program, named 'Man Eater Day', to celebrate Avni's death at Wedshi village. The villagers presented a demand draft of Rs 21,000 to the controversial private hunter and his son Asghar for putting an end to the terror created by Avni, who was suspected of killing 13 people.

In a press release issued after the event, the villagers said Asghar "restored peace and tranquillity in the 19 villages" after the tigress' death. Sarpanch of Wedshi village said, "We promise to offer our unconditional support to the shooter duo and shall stand by them as and when required like they have stood by us in protecting our lives and our families from the terror of man-eating tigress T1."

The celebratory program angered the several wildlife lovers, one of whom belonged to one of the 19 villages. The person, on condition of anonymity, told mid-day, "It's really unfortunate to see some people celebrating the killing of tiger, on her death anniversary and calling it a Man-Eater Day. What was the need to invite a controversial shooter and his son who killed the tigress in cold blood?"

What experts have to say?

Tigress T1, famously known as Avni, was shot dead on November 2, 2018

Talking to mid-day, wildlife veterinarian and forensic expert Dr Prayag H S also expressed anger over the celebration at Wedshi village. He said, "There is a great proverb —until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. If Karnataka Forest Department could capture a tiger alive recently in Bandipur, why couldn't we save T1? Had vets been given full freedom to operate without interference of Nawab at Yavatmal, I bet today T1 would have been alive."

Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Nitin Kakodkar said, "Death of a tiger is always disturbing, even if it was involved in killing humans. However, as far as the decision to put T1 down is concerned, it was the right one."

However, Kakodkar criticised the celebration of Avni's death anniversary as 'Man-Eater Day' and said, "The Wildlife Act has no such word as a man-eater. Even if it had, I would never subscribe to observing any day as a man-eater day. It is an idea floated by people with vested interests."

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