Tigress Avni (T1) case: Government-appointed committee is an eyewash, say activists

Updated: Nov 12, 2018, 20:40 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav | Mumbai

Activists question inclusion of controversial tiger expert in team that will probe T1's killing; doubt its motive

Tigress T1 was shot and killed by Asghar Ali Khan at Pandharkawda
Tigress T1 was shot and killed by Asghar Ali Khan at Pandharkawda

The appointment of controversial tiger expert Dr Bilal Habib to the committee formed by forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar to probe tigress T1's killing, has raised questions about the motive of the government among wildlife lovers and activists. On November 9, Forest Department officials had informed reporters that Habib, a representative of the Wildlife Institute of India, would be part of the committee.

'Dr Habib won't speak against FD'
Talking to mid-day, a wildlife lover said, "The state government-appointed committee is an eyewash, because there is no veterinarian and no ballistic or forensic expert in it. What is more shocking is that they have involved Dr Bilal Habib. Everyone knows the controversy around the missing tiger, Jai, which was radio collared by Habib and his team. A National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)-appointed committee on the probe related to Jai had raised several questions about the people involved in tracking and monitoring him. Habib is also working on many projects of the Forest Department (FD) and so he will never speak against it."

A wildlife lover alleged that an NTCA-appointed committee on the probe related to missing tiger Jai, that was radio collared by Dr Bilal Habib had raised several questions about the people involved in tracking and monitoring him
A wildlife lover alleged that an NTCA-appointed committee on the probe related to missing tiger Jai, that was radio collared by Dr Bilal Habib had raised several questions about the people involved in tracking and monitoring him

Dr Sarita Subramanian from Earth Brigade Foundation said, "Dr Habib was part of the NTCA committee sent to Pandharkawda in January. He couldn't even conclude if T1 was pregnant, as all he had was images supplied by an NGO and the FD. Camera trap images 20 days after he left showed 2 month old cubs on February 18. Today our representatives met the chief minister and gave him another letter with our recommendation for a rescue team for the cubs and a team for the enquiry committee."

Govt speak
A senior official from the FD said, "The committee constituted by the government includes wildlife experts who have ample experience and so it is wrong to question their motive."

Dr Habib says
Dr Habib said, "I feel the government has taken the right decision. Is there any other person who has extensively worked on tigers in Maharashtra?"

Tigress Avni's (T1) post-mortem report reveals she died of gunshot

WCT clarifies
Some wildlife activists had criticised the reputed NGO Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT), as a few camera trap pictures of a gypsy and another vehicle had gone viral on social networking sites, with a message saying that vehicles with WCT logos were used by Nawab Shafat Ali Khan and his team to illegally enter the forest at night. Taking serious note of this, WCT released a statement saying it donates vehicles essential field equipment; organises law enforcement training sessions for frontline forest staff, and provides technical support. 'Hence, forest department vehicles in several parks will have WCT logos'. However these vehicles are operated by the forest department and not by WCT. 'WCT has not deployed any research vehicle for any kind of activity in Pandharkawda Forest Division in Maharashtra during the past 2.5 months. WCT hereby declares that our field teams do not possess any Maruti Gypsy vehicle.'

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