Forest dept draws flak over 'shooting down' tiger

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A press release from a forest department official which spoke about “shooting down” a “man-killing” tiger at Bandipur National Park has caused the department considerable embarrassment.

The letter prompted the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Sanjai Mohan to declare that efforts would be made to capture the animal alive on Wednesday.

The letter, dated October 8 and carried the signature of the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Project Tiger), Jagat Ram, IFS, claimed that Mohan and the Chief Wildlife Warden, had agreed that a tiger which had killed a farmer at Chowdanahalli, bordering the Bandipur National Park, on Tuesday would be captured or “shot down” within 48 hours. 

A digital copy of the letter which began circulating on social media on Tuesday night prompted wildlife activists to descend upon Aranya Bhavan at Malleswaram at 11 am on Wednesday to know if the department intends to kill the tiger.

“We have not ordered any killing of the tiger. But there is a tiger problem there - since this is the second such incident of a man being killed by this tiger,” Mohan said.

Wildlife activists were not entirely convinced. Naveena Kamath, founder of Action for Animal Justice, expressed concern that the tone of Ram’s letter indicated that the Forest Department is keeping an option open to kill the tiger. “What we fear is a repetition of the ‘Avni’ incident from last year,” Kamath said.

In November 2018, the alleged man-eating tigress “Avni”, which had two cubs, was gunned down by Asgar Ali, son of the professional hunter, Nawab Shafat Ali, over protestations from wildlife activists that every attempt be made to tranquilise the animals. It is a fear that was seemingly realised when news arrived during Mohan’s discussions with the wildlife activists that Shafat Ali and his son had arrived in Bandipur National Park at that moment. 

“I’m not aware of these persons being there, but if they are there, I have already told my officers at Bandipur that they should not be involved in any of the operations,” Mohan said.

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