Tigress Avni (T1) killing row escalates: Is there a plan to kill the cubs also?

Updated: Nov 15, 2018, 12:55 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

Exclusive >> In letter to CM Devendra Fadnavis, Maneka Gandhi says rescue teams have been told to either let slain T1's cubs die or be killed; suggests names of expert veterinarians to help save the young ones

The Forest Department is leading an operation to rescue the cubs of tigress T1
The Forest Department is leading an operation to rescue the cubs of tigress T1

Union minister Maneka Gandhi is unwilling to let up on the Maharashtra Forest Department (FD) after the killing of tigress T1. After taking potshots at State Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar over the shooting, she has now written to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, telling him to get experts from outside the state to save the tigress's cubs at any cost.

In the letter sent on November 14, a copy of which is in possession of mid-day, Gandhi has also alleged that the local forest department is making no effort to rescue the cubs, in fact, their team has been advised not to catch them till they died or to see that they were killed.

'No attempt to rescue cubs'
Tigress T1 or Avni was shot dead on November 3 by the son of controversial hunter Nawab Shafat Ali Khan, Asghar. Activists have alleged it was a cold-blooded murder. The letter by Gandhi to Fadnavis states, "We had sent a team of NGOs to Yavatmal recently and found that no attempt was being made by the local forest department or CWLW (Chief Wildlife Warden) to catch the cubs. In fact we were told by the villagers that the team has been advised not to catch them till they died or to see that they were killed."

Tigress T1 was shot dead in Pandharkawda
Tigress T1 was shot dead in Pandharkawda

The Maharashtra Forest Department (FD) has been saying that the efforts to successfully capture the cubs are on in full swing. "More than 150-200 people from the FD including veterinarians, Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) teams, forest workers and staff have been carrying out not just a search operation but have also been checking the camera traps, pugmarks and gathering information from locals. Secondary baits have also been placed, meat pieces have also been kept in multiple locations so that the cubs can eat," said a senior official from the MFD, refuting Gandhi's allegations. An expert team of leopard rescuers from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park has also arrived in Pandharkawda to help rescue the cubs.

Another forest official said, "It is wrong to say that we are not taking any measures to rescue and trap the cubs when the reality is that the efforts are on in full swing. The claims made by the union minister are baseless."

In the letter the Union Minister goes on to suggest that the CM must ask experts from outside the state to help. She writes, "May I suggest that, in the face of national anger and the killing of the mother and concern at the plight of the cubs, you get the team of veterinarians and forest people from outside."

The names included in the list given by Gandhi in the letter also includes the names of experts suggested by expert veterinarian and forensic expert Dr Prayag H S. NGO Earth Brigade Foundation, in a letter to the CM on Sunday, had also suggested the names of some of the vets which are on the list, which is seen as a positive move. The letter also states, "I have also sent a list of names to Pardeshi, to put on reconstituted probe committee. To the four names sent earlier, I would like to add a fifth, Dr Rajesh Gopal, former head of NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority)."

'Man-eater' tigress Avni T1 shot dead: Here's how the events unfolded

Suggested experts
The wildlife experts suggested by Maneka Gandhi are:
Dr Sandeep Agarwal, MP forest department,
Dr Akhilesh Mishra, MP forest department,
Dr Satyaprakash Arun, Tirupati Zoo, Wasif Jamshed, tiger tracker
Dr Arun Zakaria, Kerala,
Dr Jacob Alexander, Kerala,
Dr Sanath, Wildlife Institute of India Dehradun,
Dr Muthukrishna, Tamilnadu,
Dr Nitin Gupta, MP
Dr Yogesh Bharadwaj, Dehradun
Dr Abhay Sangar, Sanjay National Park, MP
Dr Manoharan, Tamilnadu

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