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Pandharkawada, Maharashtra:

Nawab Shafat Ali Khan and his son who shot Tigress Avni were felicitated late night on November 13, 2018. The felicitation was organized by people from various villages in Pandharkawada, Maharashtra and according to a TOI report, there were around 3000 people from nearby villages during the function. The felicitation was organised just a day after a post-mortem report contradicting the accounts of the hunters had come out. This is amidst calls for global protests.

As of now, the cubs of Avni have not been found. Animal lovers and experts worry that the cubs would starve to death if not found immediately. Union minister Maneka Gandhi had alleged earlier that there were no attempts being made to catch the cubs alive. “We had sent a team of NGOs to Yavatmal and found that no attempts were being made by the local forest department or CWLQ ( Chief Wildlife Warden) to catch the cubs,” she wrote in the letter accessed my Mirror Now. She also wrote that the villagers had told the team that they were advised by the government officials to not catch the cubs or to see that the cubs were killed.

This was also reflected in Nawab Shafat Ali Khan’s statement to TOI. “The pugmarks of sub adults were found in agriculture fields. This indicates that they were hunting for hare in the fields. They are venturing two to three kilometres out. They are zero risks. They need not be tranquilised if they are living a normal life. The only worry is that the mother fed them in the last three human kills. As long as they don’t turn man-eaters, it is ok. Even tranquilising causes much stress to the bit cag. Once you tranquilised you can’t release them, and it is life imprisonment in a small cell. It is better to keep watch and take a decision,” he added. This ‘wait and watch’ approach is being condemned by activists and experts alike since they believe that this could starve the cubs to death.

Earlier on November 12, 2018, the postmortem report had debunked the version put out by the shooters which stated that the tiger was facing the hunter. Since the tranquilliser dart did not leave any haemorrhages at the dating spot raising doubts whether it was even fired from a rifle, senior forest department official told ndtv on condition of anonymity, that he had doubts whether the dart was even used as the first option.”If it is true then how come the bullet entered from rear. And the tranquiliser dart is another evidence suggesting that it was not even used as a first option to bring the tigress under control,” he said.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra forest minister Mungantiwar is facing fierce criticism from both within the party and from outside. While a senior BJP leader said that there won’t be any action against him despite the criticism, a Maharashtra BJP minister told the Mumbai Mirror that Fadnavis had asked Mungantiwar to refrain from making statements that could stir up further controversy.

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