STOP killing tigers! They shot Avni dead, her cubs are next!
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Tigress Avni (T-1) and her two nine-month old cubs live in Pandharkawada Forest in Yavatmal District, Maharashtra, India, a geography plagued by illegal cattle grazing, encroachment, and expansion of a large private cement factory. Rampant pesticide poisoning in several parts of Yavatmal district is also a huge environmental hazard. All of this have resulted in constant man-animal conflicts.
Maharashtra State alleges that Avni has killed 13 humans in the past 2 years. Seven of the 13 killings had cattle next to the bodies of the human victims, which indicates that uncontrolled grazing could be a reason for the killings. 10 of the 13 killings happened on Saturday-Sunday, which cast a doubt why a "man-eater" would only decide to kill on weekends. DNA test was done only on 3 of the 13 victim bodies, and only ONE contained a tigress' DNA!
All these data points and ambiguities cast serious aspersions on Avni's involvement in human killings. Courts had stayed an earlier shoot order for Avni based on these irregularities.
THE THREAT: Owing to pressure from the District Administration, Forest Department, and the Ministry of Forest, Maharashtra State, the State Forest Department has issued a fresh 'shoot to kill' order in the name of Avni. The order itself is very ambiguous, as it orders to "tranquilize and capture Avni" in one place, and "shoot to kill Avni if she can't be captured" in another place. Courts have now ratified this order after three successive killings in August 2018, which strangely happened after a long gap of more than 6 months.
The State, by violating all protocol of dealing with wildlife, brought in a notorious private contract hunter to shoot Avni down in September 2018, who so far has been unsuccessful, and was later sent back after a huge public outrage. Meanwhile, Wildlife Activists pressed the State to bring in a team of veterinarians and wildlife experts from neighbouring state Madhya Pradesh to facilitate tranquilization and capture, who, along with a couple of elephants are still camping in Pandharkawada.
However, due to suspected political pressure and vested interests by the Industrial/ Commercial lobbies, there is a high possibility of the Principal Chief Conservator Of Forests (PCCF) submitting a report stating that due to the difficult terrain and conditions, they are unable to capture T1 alive, and will therefore call the hunter back to shoot her dead.
Avni's killing would eventually result in the death of her two cubs too, as they are both too young to hunt and survive on their own. And the state would, as a next step, hunt down Avni's mate, the male tiger T-2, the father of the cubs.
All efforts are being made by several individuals and organisations, leading ones being The Earth Brigade Foundation (Mumbai) Dr Sarita Subramaniam (Mumbai) and Dr Jerryl Banait (Nagpur) to
(a) promote education & awareness among locals
(b) convince the State & District Authorities to promote peaceful coexistence
(c) litigate against the order at the District, High & Supreme Courts
(d) mobilise support from across the globe to save Avni and her cubs' lives.
Dear Mr President, Mr Prime Minister and Mr Chief Minister, please
(1) Pass strong orders to immediately stop all illegal activities - contractual grazing of livestock, encroachment, illegal expansions and construction in Pandharkawada Forest Range.
(2) Instruct the State Forest and Wildlife Departments to stop the atrocities and irregularities involved in dealing with the National Animal and revoke the shoot to kill order.
(3) Press for an investigation into the State Forest and Wildlife Department's order that deploys a private hunter to shoot down India's National Animal.
(4) In case Avni needs to be relocated into to no-conflict area, instruct the State to capture her and the two cubs TOGETHER.
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