Veterinarian and forensic expert on how tigress Avni (T1) was killed
Veterinarian and forensic expert Dr Prayag H S, a senior PhD research scholar, Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences University
Veterinarian and forensic expert Dr Prayag H S, a senior PhD research scholar, Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences University (KVAFSU-Bengaluru), talks about the way the operation to capture and later kill T1 was dealt with, and how Nawab Shafat Ali Khan apparently hijacked the entire system.
We have heard that there is a lot of pressure on you as you have been raising the shortcomings in the operation to capture (and later kill) T1 and the way the Maharashtra forest department carried it out. What is your take on this?
I started my wildlife journey in 2003 as an intern veterinarian at the world famous Mysore Zoo. Later, I had the opportunity to work with the Karnataka Forest Department (KFD) at Bhadra Tiger Reserve. From then on I have been working either with KFD or the Zoo Authority of Karnataka (ZAK). I am currently on deputation to do my PhD, and the credit for whatever I am today goes to the ground field staff and dynamic officers of both institutions who had honesty and integrity. I am not targeting the Maharashtra Forest Department (MFD), but am definitely targeting the unscientific practices of the nawab and those who are misleading the system.
Still, you work with the Karnataka Forest Department and are criticising the Maharashtra Forest Department...
Whenever any state asks for our professional support or scientific approach regarding wildlife, it's our duty to help them. When we found on our Indian wildlife vets WhatsApp group that nawab saab was going to Yavatmal to shoot a tiger, last December we [some veterinarians] volunteered our services knowing how trigger-happy he is. We are thankful to MFD for the invitation. However, we had mailed to them that we would be working as per NTCA protocol and guidelines as professionals. The reality on ground zero surprised us. We then found out that the tigress was pregnant/lactating and asked MFD to get it confirmed and call us back. We wrote our reports and gave recommendations on how to go about the capture operation of T1. The NTCA took cognisance of our reports and asked them to halt the operation. In August there were three human kills and vets were called from Madhya Pradesh. Even they had to leave over differences between them and the nawab's style of working. It was a clash between professional scientific approach and nawab saab's approach. We have been vocal whenever he intimidated vets and labelled forest officials as incompetent.
What do you think needs to be done to trap the cubs and do you think the department should involve private hunters for the job?
We had given a plan of action on how to go about the entire operation and even helped in procurement of CK Obsession perfume and urine samples. Dr Sunil Bawaskar was instrumental in that, but the feedback we got was that nawab saab had hijacked the entire system. We have been in constant touch with veterinarians both from MP and Maharashtra, who narrated how they were concerned by nawab saab's plans and how he had been disrespectful to senior forest officials. That's when we thought he needs to be dealt with seriously. Asghar shot T1 in cold blood, using techniques to lure the tigress given by vets for capture, so some veterinarians have decided to deal with them legally. Competent teams have to be called from within Maharashtra as well as from outside, especially MP veterinarians, to capture the cubs.
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