Avni killing: Most allegations are baseless, says forest department
In an interview to Hindustan Times, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) AK Misra spoke about the controversy surrounding the shooting of tigress T-1Updated: Nov 10, 2018 00:40 IST
As per the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) AK Misra had the authority to issue orders on September 4 this year for the removal of T-1 from the Ralegaon region by tranquillising the big cat because she allegedly killed 13 people. His orders stated that if tranquillising failed, shooting T-1 would be the last resort. Private hunters Nawab Shafath Ali Khan and his son Asghar Ali were hired for this contingency.
Since you had issued orders to shoot the tigress, do you think there was any foul play involved?
There was an enquiry about the entire incident within hours of it, and we accepted the version told to us by our staff. While we were not physically present when it took place, the safety of villagers was a priority and we ensured no other untoward incident took place. However, whether there were any violations or lapses in the sequence of events, it is up to NTCA and the state government committees to investigate and find out.
Why did you hire a private hunter to track down the tigress?
When it comes to wildlife management, there are very specific things that the department takes care of. This ranges from moving within the forest areas, spotting pug marks, ensuring camera traps are placed properly, and understanding the habitat of different animals. However, there are specific attributes called ‘jungle art’ that everyone cannot perform. For example, while tracking the cubs we have four villagers helping us who are experts in trekking. Similarly, we needed expertise for this entire operation. We do not care about their background; all that is important is the skill.
There are allegations of inconsistencies in the forest department’s statement regarding the elimination of T-1 and the findings of the post mortem. What does the forest department have to say?
I have not seen the post-mortem report and even if I did, I would not have been able to understand or comment on the technical details. As far as an empty stomach goes, carnivores are known to eat once a week and they do not eat every day. All other remaining allegations are only speculations and most of them baseless. Only expert veterinarians can deduce such a scientific report, and we stick by what our staff from November 2 has told us. Until there is expert scrutiny, nothing can be understood. It is surprising that there are people who cannot stand in the jungle for even two minutes, they are suggesting methods to resolve this issue.
Has there been any success in tracking T-1’s cubs?
No, not yet. All our efforts are focused on trapping the cubs and almost 200 forest officers have been deployed across 160 sq. km of this forest area to trap them. We have decided to double the number of camera traps to take the tally to 180 cameras. We have got a fresh pug marks in one of the forest fringes, and the tracking process is expedited. We have to be very careful as any disturbance might stall our efforts. The entire process is being done through a scientific approach.
In terms of tackling the human-animal conflict, does the department face issues like lack of equipment, staff or expertise?
We are lacking expertise in close conflict situations, and unique mechanisms (for example using a herd of elephants to resolve a crisis) as solutions. However, it will take time. We are in touch with various non-government organisations for scientific wildlife management. There are around 200 people on field currently. Our main objective now is to ensure the cubs are safe and they are captured without any hassle. Our staff has not taken any Diwali holidays and we have been on field to ensure this operation is closed.
Please cite a recent case of man-animal conflict resolved by the department.
A tiger roaming across the Vidarbha region (Chandrapur) in October posed a human-animal conflict, but it was handled very deftly by my team and I. Despite great pressure from every quarter, unnecessary haste was avoided. Very good monitoring and alert villagers avoided further human death. Ultimately, this tiger, which was labelled as a man-eater, got successfully rehabilitated after being tranquillised and this whole operation was running parallel to the Ralegaon tigress (T1) operation.