Mumbai, Oct 8: The Maharashtra Forest Department has called back India's top hunter Nawab Shafath Ali Khan from Hyderabad to lead the ongoing operation for menacing T1 tigress in Pandharkawda Forest Division in Yavatmal district despite widespread criticism by wildlife lovers and section of media.
The tigress killed 13 persons from Pandharkawda and Ralegaon tehsils in last two years. The department had launched the tranquilising operation after January 29, 2018 and then full-fledged search from September 12 after the verdict by the Supreme Court.
Forest department had roped in Hyderabad sharpshooter Shafath Ali Khan for the operation. Khan, however, was removed following the activist protest and Maneka Gandhi's intervention.
It was a case of very bad PR though, when they decided to bring in Shafat Ali, a self-styled hunter. Ali has put down many man-eaters in India, but his swagger is a mixture of trophy hunting and apparently, eugenics. He claims tigers can be terrorists; that he is a good shooter because of his "blood", and boasts his grandfather "shot tigers like dogs".
A group of wildlife vets in Maharashtra had objected to Khan being allowed to tranquilise the tigress. Tranquilisation of animals is a difficult and precise process, animals can also die if it is wrongly done. The vets stressed only medical professionals should do this. Other wildlife lovers have petitioned against Khan being part of the operation in any form.
A twist in trail
Meanwhile, the operation took a twist when 'Gajraj' an elephant employed for the operation freed himself from the base camp and ran amok killing a woman at Chahand village in Ralegao tahsil Wednesday early morning.
The elephant Gajraj, had been called for operation from Tadoba-Andhari tiger reserve and was one of the five elephants being used over the past ten days to locate the elusive tigers.
Despite massive manhunt using five elephants, the three tigers have eluded over 200 strong force comprising forest and police personnel for more than a month after the operation to catch the tigress alive or dead was launched following Supreme Courts go ahead.
The SC had dismissed activist's plea to allow only capture and not shoot the tigress, who is believed to have killed five persons since November last year, three of them in the month of August.