Updates from : the Hindu :
Even as this month’s shooting of Avni, the tigress that is said to have killed 13 villagers, remains a subject of intense debate, a letter written by a forest department official in September to Maharashtra’s Chief Wildlife Warden reveals the disquiet over the manner in which the search for the elusive cat was being pursued.
“Two golden opportunities to execute the Chief Wildlife Warden’s (CWW) order — to tranquilise Avni, the tigress, in a very prompt and scientific way was missed,” K.M Abharna, Deputy Conservator of Forests (DSF) Pandharkawada, wrote in a letter to the CWW.
“As per the meeting held on September 12, 2018, by CWW to strategise the course of action for next 7 days, the operation was commenced from September 13, 2018,” Ms. Abharna, wrote in the letter dated September 20, a copy of which has been seen by The Hindu.
“Since September 12, the location of T1 and cubs were not found. Hence it is decided to have intensive search/combing operation,” the official wrote before detailing the incidents, where in her opinion, opportunities to tranquilise the cat were missed.
“In first incidence C-86 near Kherigaon village — on September 14, 2018, despite knowing that all the teams are extensively searching for T1 and cubs on September 12, information was strategically concealed for more than 14 hours.
“Later information was shared by assistant conservator of forests (who was accompanying the nawab team) on September 15, 2018, to the DCF Pandharkwada. Based on that the combing operation started and found old pugmarks at Ca86.
“Had it been informed to any of the team members on September 14 itself, the elephants (from Madhya Pradesh) could have been deployed to execute the order of CWW on the same day. Had it been intimated to the team/DCF immediately, the whole team should have been worked together to attain a result,” the DCF wrote.
“On September 18…, 2018, compartment no 149, fresh cattle kills were reported. All the teams were called on for the operation and five teams were made and were led by divisional forest officer (Wildlife). DCF Pandharkwada was coordinating from the base camp 150 compartment number. Two veternarians approached the cattle kill around 5 p.m. the tigress could not be located around till sunset. Hence the operation was suspended until next morning to ensure the compliance of the Supreme Court order.
“The DCF was intimated that Nawab’s team will roam in the road or wait in the road to take a chance without disturbing the kill. Unfortunately, despite clear planning and instructions, nawab team took the vehicle till cattle kill and sat for long without any planning. It caused disturbance on the kill made by T1, significantly reduced her chances to return to kill. Hence morning tranquilization efforts could not be carried out,” Ms. Abharna wrote.
The DCF went on to complain about the lack of coordination between the various teams.
“It was decided in the meeting headed by CWW on September 12, that both the teams will respect each others decision and disturbance at the kill site shall be avoided to execute the order successfully, but not passing information timely and not following the decision of the whole team messed up the whole operation.
“As per the meeting held at the DCF office on September 9, 2018, it was intimated by Nawab to the additional principal chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) that he is in need of another new order from CWW to shoot T1 and also to roam in the night,” she wrote.
When contacted by The Hindu, Nawab Shafath Ali Khan declined knowledge of any such request made on his behalf and said: “I am not aware of this.”
“Unnecessarily the whole operation was disturbed due to excessive night movement which made T1 leave the actual territory and to explore the new territory,” the DCF wrote.