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Rules broken, guidelines violated in killing tigress Avni, says report

On November 2, Avni was shot dead by a team of forest staff members, and Asghar Ali, the son of independent sharpshooter Nawab Shafat Ali Khan, who was hired by the forest department. The department wanted to either tranquilise the animal or kill it, as Avni was said to have killed 13 people since June 2016.

mumbai Updated: Dec 05, 2018 10:06 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
avni,avni killing,tiger T-1
People protest in Pune against the killing of tigress Avni. (Rahul Raut / HT File )

Several rules were broken and set guidelines were violated in the killing of tigress T-1, or Avni, an alleged maneater, in the Pandharkwada forest in Yavatmal last month, an investigation committee formed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has found.

On November 2, Avni was shot dead by a team of forest staff members, and Asghar Ali, the son of independent sharpshooter Nawab Shafat Ali Khan, who was hired by the forest department. The department wanted to either tranquilise the animal or kill it, as Avni was said to have killed 13 people since June 2016. A week after Avni’s death, the central government, through NTCA, formed a three-member panel of retired forest officer OP Kaler, deputy director of the Wildlife Trust of India, Jose Louies, and assistant inspector general for forest, NTCA, Hemant Kamdi.

The panel’s report has not been made public, but was submitted to the NTCA, which has asked the state to respond in 15 days. “The state authorities of Maharashtra have been informed on December 3 (Monday) to take requisite necessary action in respect of violations of standard operating procedure of NTCA guidelines, Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and Arms Act, 1959,” a statement issued by the NTCA additional director general Anup Nayak said. Nayak told HT he cannot reveal the details of the report until the forest department responds. “A showcause notice has been issued to the Maharashtra forest department on Monday,” he said. “An action taken report regarding inconsistencies identified by NTCA needs to be answered by the Maharashtra principal chief conservator of forest (Wildlife),” he said.

AK Misra, principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife), Maharashtra forest department said the department will examine the notice and respond accordingly. “We have not received it yet but the events from November 2 were not clear to anybody except those who were present during the operation. The information shared by the team to us was circulated to everybody including the media. If this inquiry has revealed irregularities, we need to check the facts, consult our officers, lawyers, and submit our response,” he said.

A senior NTCA official told HT about the details of the investigation into each violation in the killing of the tigress. “The gun used by Asghar Ali did not belong to him and appears to be his father’s. This amounts to violation of the Arms Act, 1959. The committee has tried to procure documents from the hunters but they did not respond at all. So we do not know what calibre was used,” the official said.

“There were many inconsistencies in the account of how the tigress is said to have been tranquilised and then killed, as against the standard operating procedure (SOP) identified by NTCA. There was no veterinarian present when this incident happened,” the official said. “There were also violations under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, as the person authorised by the Maharashtra forest department to either tranquilise or kill the animal was Shafat Ali Khan and not his son.”

For their investigation, the panel recreating the entire scene from the night of November 2, 2018. The committee interacted with all the people involved in the operation as well as the villagers, and developed a detailed report, the official said. “The Maharashtra government has 15 days to respond to the notice, failing which action under the two acts and the NTCA standard operating procedure will be initiated,” he said.

Meanwhile, a member of another committee constituted by the Maharashtra government, investigating the entire if tigress T-1 allegedly attacked and killed villagers since June 2016, and the process in which she was monitored and finally executed, said their committee is expected to submit its report to the state government by December 5. The committee was expected to submit the report first on November 24, and later on November 30 but they failed to do so.

First Published: Dec 05, 2018 10:06 IST