Jaipur: A day after the forest department issued a shoot-on-sight order for a panther that mauled to death two persons near Sariska forest area in Rajasthan, wildlife experts termed the move “unwarranted” saying the animal should instead be tranquilised.
Panthers have killed four persons and injured one in the last nine days in peripheral villages of Sariska Tiger Reserve (STR) in Alwar. Of the four, two persons were killed Sunday.
Additional principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) GV Reddy said, “As per the Wildlife Act, the order to kill an animal can be given if human life is in danger. In last few days, four people have been killed. Though we have taken a decision (to shoot on sight), but efforts are made not to kill the animal if it gets trapped in a cage or is tranquilised”.
Reddy said three tranquilizing teams are working on ground and the efforts are to save “both humans and the animal”.
Asked how will they zero in on the right animal, Reddy said, “The teams are working in areas from where the attacks were reported. Leopards move in territories. We have also taken swabs from victim’s body for DNA identification. Efforts are being made to identify the right animal.” .
Former field director, STR, Sunayan Sharma told HT that the “decision to shoot to kill the panther is unwarranted” and unacceptable. “We have sufficient time to tranquilise the animal. The kill order should be the last resort,” he added.
Sharma said it was important to identify the right animal behind the attacks. “We need to adopt scientific methods such as forensic genetics for identification. Villagers are naturally agitated, but we need to make efforts to capture the animal,” said Sharma.
Founder secretary, Sariska Tiger Foundation, Dinesh Durrani said, “It is for the first time in the history of Rajasthan that such an order of ‘shoot to kill’ has been issued.”
He said, the the animal was certainly a “human killer, but was not a “man eater”. “Identification of right animal is difficult. The animal has killed four persons. We can just pray that the right animal is killed.”
it may be mentioned that Uttarakhand High Court had in December last year directed that big cats cannot be killed or declared ‘man-eaters.’ Hearing a PIL, the court had said tigers, leopard and panthers posing a threat to human life should be captured alive with tranquilizer guns in the presence of veterinarians and released in a forest later.
To kill or not to: what the law states
The Wildlife Protection Act-1972 permits hunting of an animal in certain cases. The Act states that if the chief wildlife warden may permit to kill a wild animal specified in Schedule-I, if “he is satisfied that the animal has become dangerous to human life or is so disabled or diseased as to be beyond recovery”. It also states that the wild animal should be ordered to be killed only if it cannot be captured, transquilised or translocated.