'Man-eater' tigress Avni sighted by Maharashtra forest department team, displays signs of aggression

The tigress T1 or 'Avni' in the Yavatmal district of Maharashtra was on Wednesday caught on camera trap and sighted by a team of five, including three trackers. The tigress killed a cow belonging to a resident of Sarati village in Pandharkawda range and the forest department team was called. Reportedly, T1 displayed signs of aggression towards the team, which is why she could not be tranquilised.

The Bombay High Court's Nagpur bench had on Tuesday sought a reply from the state forest department to disclose how there have not been any deaths in the last two months by the tigress if she was actually a man-eater as tagged by the department.

According to a report by The Indian Express, the bench of Justices Bhushan Dharmadhikari and SM Modak asked the department to explain the lack of attacks in the area in more than a month if the tigress was a habitual man-eater. It also clarified that it would not look into aspects of the case that had already been upheld by the Supreme Court.

 Man-eater tigress Avni sighted by Maharashtra forest department team, displays signs of aggression

Camera trap images of tigress Avni. Images procured by Ankita Virmani

In the fresh petition before the Bombay High Court, petitioner Jeryl Banait contended that instead of killing her, which will orphan her two 10-month-old cubs, the forest department should capture her alive, as per a Supreme Court order from 12 September.

"The department claimed that this tigress has killed over a dozen humans and in January this year, issued orders to shoot her at sight. However, in that month, she gave birth to two cubs, who are solely dependent on her for survival in the wild," he said. He also claimed that since the birth of the cubs, there was not a single human death reported in the area, where seven other tigers roam the wild.

"How have the officials concluded that she is the man-eater and are now hunting for her? They have not even conducted proper scat (droppings) tests or analysed her predatory habits. If they kill her without following the Supreme Court and National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) guidelines, they will actually be responsible for three deaths, since her cubs cannot survive without her," Banait said.

Meanwhile, the hunt for the tigress is on, with the help of trap cameras, drones, a pack of trained sniffer dogs and a hang-glider along with a team of Forest Department officials in the vicinity of the Tippeshwar Tiger Sanctuary.

Earlier in October, the Supreme Court order, in which the apex court refused to interfere with the 'shoot-at-sight' notice for T1, had garnered strong reactions from wildlife activists and NGOs. In response to the order to kill 'Avni', several activists and NGOs came together to create the 'Let Avni Live' petition on Twitter.

The tigress T1 lives in the Pandharkawada forest in the Yavatmal district of Maharashtra which, the petition on Change.org claims, is an area rampant with illegal cattle grazing and encroachment. Several factories, and incidents of pesticide poisoning are factors that lead to "constant man-animal conflicts".

According to reports, the Maharashtra forest department had claimed that the six-year-old tigress, along with two of her cubs, had consumed 60 percent of a human corpse in September which led to the decision of declaring her as a 'man-eater'. Reportedly, Avni had claimed at least 9 lives till September.

On 11 September, the apex court heard the petitions filed by a couple of activists in Delhi. The petitions challenged the Bombay High Court’s decision which gave the forest department a go-ahead to implement its order to tranquillise or shoot the tigress.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Oct 18, 2018 17:03:31 IST