Forest department: T1 needs to go if other tigers are to be safe
As the hunt for tigress drags on, and more villagers are killed in man-animal conflict, forest department bosses tell mid-day about the difficulties they face
A K Misra, principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) - Wildlife and Chief Wildlife Warden, and Sunil Limaye additional principal chief conservator of Forest (APCCF) - Wildlife East, who are leading the operation to capture tigress T1, say that by talking about a single tiger, activists are putting the lives of other tigers at stake.
They say if she is not removed from the area of human-wildlife conflict incidents at Pandharkawda, then another animal there might face a threat from locals who could take revenge by way of retaliatory killing. The Maharashtra forest department (FD) and forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar are also facing criticism from activists who allege that the main motive of the government is to shoot T1, as controversial shooter Nawab Shafat Ali Khan has been involved in the operation, that costs Rs 35,000 to run it every day. PCCF - Wildlife A K Misra and APCCF - Wildlife East, Sunil Limaye, speak to mid-day about what the FD is doing.
Sunil Limaye and AK Misra
Of the 13 human deaths in man-animal conflict incidents in the Pandharkawda division, in how many cases was the involvement of tigress T1 found?
We collected forensic evidence and the reports have confirmed the presence of T1. Camera traps installed near the human kill sites along with Pug Impression Pads (PIPs) also gave us evidence of T1's presence in five deaths. Apart from T1 and her cubs no other animal was in the vicinity, and this is sufficient to make the conclusion that T1 has been responsible for the human deaths.
Do you think that there was a delay in starting the operation?
No we don't think there was a delay. From September 2016 we started work which includes collecting direct and indirect evidence, extensive camera trapping, PIPs etc. Instead of sitting in AC glass cabins and armchair activism, the activists should come and see how our staff is working in the tense situation. It's easy to talk about wildlife conservation on social media but things on ground are different. Villagers are agitated because they are unable to visit their farms. Retaliation killing by poisoning the cattle carcass killed by a tiger or leopard could happen when the community loses faith in the system. We don't want these things to happen but by talking about a single tiger, activists are putting the life of other tigers at stake. In order to look at the larger picture of conservation of the tiger species, the removal of this tiger from the area is a must. If it is not done, then another animal on the landscape might face a threat from local communities who could take revenge by way of retaliatory killing.
Despite having expert wildlife veterinarians, why was the decision to involve controversial shooter Nawab Shafat Ali Khan taken?
We have police shooters equipped with assault rifles like AK-47 which have low target range. NTCA guidelines say that the caliber of weapon used to shoot a problem animal should be .375 magnum and that rifle is not available with police. Nawab has specialised hunting weapons, the licenses needed and an experience of over 35 years. We are ready to involve another shooter provided he has similar experience and weapons along with the licences.
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