Hunt for man-eating tiger Avni sparks chorus for presidential pardon

first_imgFor the last few months, more than 100 men have trudged through forests in Yavatmal on the trail of an elusive tigress, labelled a man-eater by the Maharashtra Forest Department.She is a six-year-old mother of two cubs. The department issued a shoot-to-kill order for her this year.Avni, or T1, as the tigress is identified, has been accused of killing and devouring 13 human beings in the past year-and-a-half.The shoot-to-kill order will reportedly be used as a last resort. It was challenged in courts all the way to the Supreme Court.In September, the top court refused to restrain the forest department from killing T1 if it needed to.In the weeks since the Supreme Court’s ruling, the attempts to hunt down Avni, or TI, have gathered pace. And they have been making international headlines — for a little touch of unconventionality,The forest officials are considering using Calvin Klein Obsession, a men’s cologne that has been scientifically proven to make big cats go bonkers,Why?According to a Wall Street Journal report from 2010, a study conducted at the Bronx Zoo in New York found that Calvin Klein Obsession was able to hold the attention of two leopards for around 11 minutes.”That’s longer than the cats usually take to savour a meal,” the WSJ noted in its report.Some of the other fragrances used in the study were Revlon’s Charlie, which managed to hold the big cats’ attention for 15.5 seconds and Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps (10.4 minutes).The Maharashtra forest officials, however, aren’t resting all their hopes on Calvin Klein Obsession’s proven track record.advertisementAlso employed on the hunt for Avni are around a 100 camera traps, a pack of hunter dogs reportedly belonging to golfer Jyoti Randhwa and a motorised paraglider that’s being used to survey the forest from a height of 800 to 1000 feet.Despite the all-out nature of the hunt that has been launched, T1 remains completely untraceable. That, perhaps, is the only silver lining for a bunch of activists who have voiced fierce opposition to the hunt.The activists have begun petitioning officials as high as the President of India, requesting him to step in and get the shoot-to-kill order withdrawn. Big Cat Rescue (BCR), a US-based sanctuary for abused and abandoned big cats, has begun a letter writing campaign to save Avni.BCR’s campaign is in association with two animal rights activists — Supriyaa Singh and Neetu J — who first brought the plight of Avni to the sanctuary’s notice, a spokesperson for Big Cat Rescue told and Neetu are associated with the Earth Brigade Foundation, an NGO that was among the petitioners who had asked the Supreme Court to forbid the Maharashtra Forest Department from killing Avni, or T1.BCR has set up what it calls an “action alert” that sends an email to around a dozen Indian officials every time somebody submits the alert. So far, BCR said, more than 8,000 emails have been sent from people around the world.The recipients include the President of India, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Maharashtra chief minister’s office.”We could not sit by and let Avni by killed just for doing what tigers do, and with no evidence that we are aware of that proves she is a man-eater as authorities are claiming,” a spokesperson for BCR said when asked how the sanctuary got involved in the campaign to save the tigress.At the centre of the opposition to the hunt for Avni is the hunt itself. Anand Siva, a Mumbai-based animal rights activist, told, “Everything about the hunt worries us.”According to Siva:The elephants that have been used on the hunt have just created more chaos and confusion. They have been sent into a tense environment in an ill- conceived and badly implemented move.City-bred dogs are being pushed into a territory that they are not familiar with and into a life that is not usual for them.Baits were used inside the forest, in violation of the law. Innocent animals were sacrificed and it could have been disastrous as other wild animals, including other tigers, could have eaten the bait and gotten killed.Another aspect of the hunt that animal rights activists are unhappy with is the man believed to be leading the hunt — Nawab Shafat Ali Khan, a controversial shooter who has previously been criticised as “trigger happy”.Anand Siva, too, expressed reservations without explicitly naming Khan. Anand questioned why the Maharashtra government had hired a “private hunter with a fetish for killing big cats, and not qualified specialists to trap and tranquillise?”advertisementThe campaign launched by Big Cat Rescue is just one of the few that have recently taken shape.When there are experts to put down wild animals, why does the government contract a killer who is known to hunt for sport [and has] a fetish for killing big cats and [who has] gone public saying man and big cats can’t coexist?- Anand SivaThere is also a petition that was signed by more than 50,000 people, at the time when this report was published. The petition, like the BCR email campaign, is addressed to the President of India, among other officials.Will the President respond? We do not know. reached out to Rashtrapati Bhavan seeking comment on the email campaign. We still await a reply.Meanwhile, the hunt for Avni, or T1, and her two cubs continues in Maharashtra. What will happen to her two cubs if she is killed?Again, we do not know.OPINION FROM DAILYO | Let Avni Live: How tigress T1 in Maharashtra has been given death sentence without fair trialREAD | Gir lion death toll reaches 23: Supreme Court, Gujarat High Court express worryWATCH | Dogs, paraglider involved in hunt to track elusive tiger Avnilast_img read more