Senior vet blames nawab for failure of op to capture tigress Avni (T1)
Dr Sunil Bawaskar tells Maharashtra state-appointed committee probing tigress's killing that all teams were dependent on hunter and not allowed to perform in his absence
Senior veterinarian Dr Sunil Bawaskar has given a statement to the state-appointed committee investigating the killing of tigress T1 blaming the nawab for her death. His statement, that mid-day has a copy of, categorically states, "All failure of operation capture is due to Nawab." Dr Bawaskar was part of the operation to capture T1 earlier.
In the first week of November, T1, also called Avni by activists, was shot dead by Asghar, son of controversial hunter Nawab Shafat Ali Khan, in Pandharkawda. After much criticism about the killing, Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar ordered an enquiry to find whether guidelines/ procedures given in National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) were followed. The state-appointed committee is to submit its report on November 30.
A file picture of tigress T1 who was shot dead by Asghar Ali Khan
Vet blames the Nawab
On November 22, the committee members sought a written reply from Dr Bawaskar. One of the questions they posed to him was, "The operation was conducted by another team in a certain manner. What are your observations on that?" The veterinarian gave a strongly-worded reply, "Before going to Pandharkawda this year, I had a detailed discussion with most of the vets involved, i.e. Dr Akhilesh Mishra, Dr Chetan Patond, Dr Kadu, Dr Ravi Khobragade and observed that 1. All failure of operation capture is due to nawab. 2 All capture teams were dependent on nawab. 3. No vets/teams were allowed to perform in his absence." Dr Bawaskar also wrote that the operation to capture T1 would have concluded well if senior, expert and experienced staff were involved last summer and "we would have saved some humans".
Support from another vet
Commenting on Dr Bawaskar's reply, wildlife veterinarian and forensic expert Dr Prayag H S said, "I appreciate the honesty and integrity of Dr Sunil Bawaskar, who was the whistleblower last year when he mentioned T1 was pregnant /lactating; and now for standing by the truth and giving his unbiased statement in the larger interest of species conservation. His reports were mocked the last time, however, when the cubs were camera trapped, his stand was vindicated. I hope now his statements are taken seriously and the guilty are punished as per law."
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