After tigress Avni’s death, Maharashtra to stop hiring hunters to kill ‘problematic’ animals
Two months after tigress T1, better known as Avni, was put down by hired hunters on suspicions of having turned into a man-eater, the state animal welfare board has decided contract killing of ‘problematic’ animals will no longer be given to recreational or trophy hunters.
A resolution to this effect was passed by the board of 20 members, chaired by BJP MP Poonam Mahajan, during its meeting last month after advocate and member Ambika Hiranandani raised the issue. The information was made public on January 10.
“Maharashtra’s animal welfare board cannot keep silent in the wake of something so serious,” said Hiranandani. “It was unanimously decided that the state needs to ensure such cases are not repeated. More veterinary officers need to be trained to tranquilise and rescue schedule 1 species. No contract killer is to be hired in future instances of human-animal conflict cases.”
While the board may have passed its order, section 11 (a) chapter 3 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 permits the chief wildlife warden (CWLW) of any state to allow any person to hunt animals dangerous to human life (see box).
Animal welfare groups said the board had taken a good decision but it was not binding on the CWLW. “The CWLW is empowered by a weak and archaic law to be the sole person who can call anyone to eliminate wildlife seen as a threat to humans,” said Sarita Subramaniam from Earth Brigade Foundation who has petitioned against the killing of T-1 at the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court.
AK Misra, CWLW and principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife), Maharashtra, who issued shooting orders against T-1, said, “We will treat the decision taken by the animal welfare board as an advisory or recommendation ... for future cases. However, if we do not have resources within the forest department to address man-animal conflict, other options such as the army or skilled state-department officers will be considered.”
T-1 was killed deliberately by Ali even though she was on her natural path, an investigation by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had revealed in December. The state government had said the hunter had shot her in self-defence.
“The tigress was killed in a hurry by an inexperienced hunter. While the state forest department followed all protocols, the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, Arms Act 1959, and NTCA standard operating procedures were all violated by the hunter” said a senior NTCA officer.