Over two years since the killing of Avni, an alleged man-eating tigress accused of killing 13 people in Maharashtra, the Supreme Court of India has sought an answer to whether the slain tigress was indeed a man-eater. The apex court also demanded answers on the "reward" that was allegedly given for killing the tigress.
The court order brings back a case that received a high level of attention from both the media and animal welfare activists, many who called the killing of Avni "cold-blooded murder".
Who was Avni?
Avni, or T1, was an adult tigress with two cubs who were ten-month-old at the time of her killing. The tigress was suspected in the killing of 13 persons since June 2016. The tigress was shot dead near Borati village in Yavatmal by a team of Forest Department officials and a civilian hunter in November 02, 2018, three months after the Supreme Court ordered that the animal be tranquilized and transported elsewhere, failing which the authorities were given permission to kill her.
How was Avni killed?
After an intensive, months-long search of the Yavatmal region, a team of forest officials led by controversial civilian hunter Ashgar Ali Khan, son of India's most famous hunter Nawab Shafath Ali Khan, who was meant to be leading the hunt but eventually remained absent. According to the official version put forth by the team, once Avni was spotted, Ali tried to tranquilize her. The tigress reportedly jumped reacted by pouncing on him and then was killed by a single shot, purportedly fired by Ali in self-defense. the final kill came after a dedicated, military-style hunt for the tigress involving 200 paragliders, infrared cameras, and Calvin Klein fragrances. Avni was survived by her two ten-month-old cubs. The two cubs were later rescued.
Why was the killing criticized?
Many including animal welfare activists, tigress conservationists, and politicians have since slammed the killing of the tigress and accused it of being illegal and an act of "trophy killing". Several pleas were filed in the SC. One of them was by activist Sangeeta Dogre who made two claims. The first was that Avani was not a man-eater since human remains were not found to be part of the contents of her stomach post-mortem. The second claim is that following the killing, the shooter Ali was gifted a silver tigress for the act by the villagers, essentially making it an act of trophy killing.
How has the Supreme Court responded to the plea?
The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought a response from the Maharashtra government and demanded answers on the aspect of the reward given for killing the animal. A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V.Ramasubramanian decided to examine a plea by activist Sangeeta Dogra and asked her to prove her claim that human remains were not found in the animal's autopsy. Responding to Dogra's argument that the hunters were also illegally rewarded for the killing, the bench noted that the authorities flouted orders that they shall not reward anyone who kills (the tigress). The bench said it will issue notice in the matter, as the reward was a clear violation.
Why is the case under the scanner again?
In January 2020, nearly 13 months after T1's killing, the case was reopened again by the new Uddhav Thackeray government in Maharashtra following a letter by animal conservationist Jerryl Banait.
(With inputs from PTI and AFP)