PIL wants SIT to look into unnatural death of animals 

Tigress Avni.

Citing the killing of tigress Avni, a public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Bombay High Court seeking formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe into the unnatural death of Schedule-I animals in Maharashtra and Goa since 2011.

Tigers, Lions and Leopards among others are categorized under the Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, with highest statutory protection against hunting.

It may be recalled that a tigress, Avni, aged between five and six, was shot dead on November 2.

She was responsible killing at least 13 people in the Pandharkawada forest division of Yavatmal district.

Nitin Despande, a social and RTI activist, who had filed the PIL through Dr Sujoy Kantawala, had cited the killing of Avni.

The matter was mentioned on Thursday before a division bench comprising Justice Ranjit More and Justice Revati Mohite-Dhere and is expected to be heard in December.

The PIL also urges the court to direct authorities to adhere to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Standard Operating Procedures as laid down by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, guidelines for human-leopard conflict management (2011) and any other existing guidelines, procedures and protocols before taking any action against Schedule-I animals in Maharashtra and Goa.

The respondents are Union of India, National Tiger Conservation Authority, governments of Maharashtra and Goa and their respective Principal Chief Consevator of Forest and Chief Wildlife Warden, Zoological Survey of India and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau.

The petitioner submitted that during the year 1950, according to the British hunter, tracker and conservationist Jim Corbett, the population of tigers was 18,000 and gradually reduced to 2,226 in 2015 as per the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF).

However, 65% of the tiger population is found in India.

"According to the statistics provided by Wildlife Protection Society of India the killing and unnatural deaths of leopards in India has increased from 118 in the year 2014 to 159 in the year 2017 and that of tigers has increased from 26 tigers in the year 2015 to 50 tigers in 2016. Thus, showing the increase in the unnatural killing of Schedule-I animals," Deshpande stated.

The petitioner submitted that as per the Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India, 2010 report by World Wild Foundation (WWF) and Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Maharashtra has a forest area of 50,650 sq km constituting 16.46% of the total geographical area of the state.

The state has 4 tiger reserves, 6 National Parks and 35 Wildlife Sanctuaries administered by 14 Forest Divisions.

Similarly, Goa covers an area of 2,151 sq km i.e. approximately 58% of the state’s total geographical area.

The state has one National Park and 6 Wildlife Sanctuaries.

"There is a grave possibility that the real factual position of the implementation and compliance to various laws and Standard Operating Procedures may not be followed and hence the ruthless killing and hunting of Schedule-I animals will continue in disregard of the same which would further lead to extinction of the endangered species and permanent loss and damage to the biodiversity of our country," the petition states, seeking an SIT probe under a retired judge of the Bombay High Court.

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PIL wants SIT to look into unnatural death of animals 

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