he tiger is in the crosshairs again. In the past week, or so, two tigresses have lost their lives. Avni, a tigress believed to have been responsible for the death of 13 people in Maharashtra over two years, was shot dead in Yavatmal district. The tigress was killed on the basis of a Supreme Court ruling in September that allowed it. The tigress, officially known as T1, had been declared a man-eater and was killed as a last resort according to the forest minister of Maharashtra, Sudhir Mungantiwar. However, conservationists and wildlife activists say the tiger was meant to be tranquilised and removed from the habitat and was not to be shot. The Maharashtra government appears to have ignored this option while targeting Avni, they say. Many had expressed displeasure at the decision to kill the tigress. The fact that it had been rearing cubs means that the killing of Avni would put these young ones in peril. Wildlife enthusiasts have stated that the young tigers must be starving and weakened in the absence of their mother and could die if they are tranquilised. And then they will also have to be kept in captivity till they are healthy enough and grown up for release in the wild. There are also allegations that forest officials were allowing the use of forest land for industrial purposes. Even as the controversy rages another tigress has been beaten to death in a village near the Dudhwa tiger reserve in Uttar Pradesh. The tigress had mauled a man, who succumbed to injuries at a hospital. Reports suggest that villagers marched into the core area of the park, beat up forest guards, manned a tractor and tracked the tigress which they then ran over with the vehicle. The tigress was also beaten with heavy logs. While the forest officials claim that the tigress had not attacked any human being in the past ten years, the villagers claim the animal had been attacking their livestock for two weeks and that they were terrified. According to them, they had also raised complaints about the animal with the forest officials.
In Odisha, meanwhile, Sundari, a tigress that had terrorised villages in the Satkosia Tiger Reserve, has been darted and tranquilised with the help of a kumki. It already had two deaths to its credit besides attacks on villagers and livestock. Sundari was not a man-eater when she was shipped out of her natural habitat in Bandhavgarh, but has been forced to turn out to be one since her natural food chain never existed around the area where she was newly located. It is now understood that the prey base in Satkosia was never studied whether or not it was adequate for the big cat to thrive on. It could also be that the tigress is yet to readjust to its new environment after being relocated from Madhya Pradesh. The terrain and green cover of the Satkosia reserve is not the same as the one Sundari was habituated to in her native Bandhavgarh National Park. Although a tiger relocated from the Kanha reserve has supposedly readjusted well to the conditions in Satkosia and has even found a mate, the case of Sundari sticks out like a sore thumb. The three cases point to the possibility that something is inherently wrong with the handling of wildlife in the country. The fact that tigresses have become the targets of attacks could undermine conservation efforts. With China paving the way for a huge demand of tiger and rhino body parts for aphrodisiac medicinal purposes, an alert has already been issued in Assam to heighten protection for the one-horned Indian rhino. The existence of a large market for such animal parts is a threat for tiger conservation and the loss of each such carnivore irrespective of reasons will defeat the initiative.
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