Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A Lesson Named Avni !

“Tigers, except when wounded or when man-eaters, are on the whole very good-tempered...Occasionally a tiger will object to too close an approach to its cubs or to a kill that it is guarding. The objection invariably takes the form of growling, and if this does not prove effective it is followed by short rushes accompanied by terrifying roars. If these warnings are disregarded, the blame for any injury inflicted rests entirely with the intruder"-… Jim Corbett

“Hundreds of false rumors of alleged attacks by the man-eater were brought to us, entailing endless miles of walking, but this was only to be expected, for in an area in which an established man-eater is operating everyone suspects their own shadows, and every sound heard at night is attributed to the man-eater.” … Jim Corbett

Well, no need to introduce that name to the wild lifers yet for those who are not exposed to wild life except the occasional sighting of a sparrow or bulbul (that too is rare now) in the backyard of their buildings last remaining trees in Pune & Mumbai like cities as well for those whose exposure is restricted to only news papers & TV channels & who by now must have been thinking Avani aka T 1 is name of some alien as so much publicity she has got! (Sadly post death only, which is usual in our country for e.g. with due respect Nirbhaya case). Well, for all such people, Jim Corbett was probably the best wild lifer (I never like to call him as tiger hunter, not even man eater tiger’s hunter) this country ever has witnessed, spent all life in forest in Himalayan ranges i.e. Gharwal/Kumaun & is an authority on tiger behavior & documented his experiences about tigers & forest in four wonderful books which unfortunately are more popular for his chess to kill the tigers which has become man eater. We the Indians (again with all due respect to patriots here) are always been poor in learning from history may it be ancient or even just a century back that of Corbett’s times! He has been called when a tiger or leopard turns man eater (then also with many more tigers living as well land under forests) to track it & kill it, a job in which he was master but never liked it! He could track & kill any man-eater tiger not because he was a sharp shooter or liked hunting, he could do that because he has studied the forest along with tiger thoroughly as well he has studied the people amongst with the man-eater tigers used to roam & hunt! Or unless in above two quotes he wouldn’t have been able to display his affection towards tigers as well the need of killing them when it becomes man-eater! Well, he has mentioned the causes of a tiger becoming man-eater too which we conveniently are neglecting since last nearly hundred years!

Now the stage is set for Avani the tigress in news & most of you must be knowing that she was a tigress who became man-eater i.e. started killing humans than her usual prey i.e. deer or wild buffalos so forest dept which is supposedly in charge of wild life in our State has to get rid of her, either by capturing her or killing her, ending the drama by later action i.e. killing of Avani tigress, oh her forest name was T1. Again for many who won’t understand that were there two tigresses i.e. Avani & T 1, well, mostly a tiger or tigress gets local proper name from the area it’s been taken birth or roams around or it gets name when some guide or local people starts calling it by a name they feel appropriate (which I think is the case of Avani). But forest dept can’t keep record with such names as every tiger is different biologically so after the census they name it like T1, T 2, T3 etc & these names are given by the seniority of the tiger in that particular forest i.e. there can be T1 in Kanha forest as well a T1 in Tadoba range but both T1 are different!

Sorry y for the detailing but with due respect to all die hard wild lifers whose number is very less in 120 crores of Indians, what we lack most when it comes to wild life conservation i.e. awareness of common man towards wild life in general leave apart details like above! So I thought it’s important to put the case in detail, right from tigress name. I won’t boast myself as wild life expert but I am fortunate to have much more exposure of forests, tigers, local people around the forest & yes forest dept & that’s why many of my friends has whatsapped me or mailed me that can I write my views about the entire Avani tigress killing! Again we have many experts, conservationists as well senior forest officers yet many a times a same event can be tagged as wrong or right, bad or good depending up on which side you are standing on! And with a little bit exposure of all sides related to wild life I feel what we lack most is the balanced stand ( I am referring to our rulers also especially the ministers involved in twitting as well in news papers) when something like this happens!

Now let’s see what is reason behind so much hohllah, over Avani the tigress is; she is from forests in Vidarbha region i.e. east side of our State which is, in & around Yeotmal district (incidentally most deaths by suicide of farmers, happens in Yeotmal district).  One more thing she is with cubs which are nearly eleven months old & that makes the entire event more controversial as at this age the cubs can’t survive on their own & if not captured that means sure death for them also after the death of their mom i.e. Avani. Now thing is since last two years this Avani tigress has become man-eater means as mentioned earlier she started killing humans as her food & that’s dangerous especially when she is not in reserved forests. Again for those reserved forests like Tadoba or Kanha National Parks means human movements are restricted or ban in these forests so there are less chances of a tiger becoming man-eater while the forest in which Avani was residing are habituated by humans also means she has easy access to human life. Well why she has become man-eater only she can tell us which is not possible now (wasn’t ever any ways) but issue is what we do once we know a tiger has started not just killing humans but eating them too? With due respect I am as serious wild lifer as any person who will be reading this piece yet please try to understand it’s easy to sit in your 10th floored apartment in Pune & Mumbai & write your views about how its shame to kill an innocent tiger but imagine you have a small piece of land in a village remote from any civilization, not even proper mobile net-work there (not even Geo), no electricity but your life depends on whatever you grow in your farm, so you have to go out in open & work in your farm! You have no weapon except some lathi or axe & yes you are used t work along with you wife or old mom or dad. And one more thing your small kids go to school which is one or two kilometers away from your home in your farm & there is no school bus service here so they have to walk to their school. One more thing, your home doesn’t have toilet inside the way apartments in Pune has & at night you or any of your family member has to go either walking few meters in darkness to the toilet block or in open, for nature call at night! Well, now imagine a tiger is roaming in your area & she kills humans & eats, what will be your reaction? I wonder how many of people who are shamming the govt (read forest dept) for killing Avani has actually gone there & stayed with farmers or local peoples who were living in this terror & do mind this I am not saying, the terror of a man-eater tiger Mr. Jim Corbett has described nearly eight years back in this very country, only thing is we forget history & it does repeats!

And once a tiger becomes man- eater he becomes ten times more dangerous as it’s a smart animal, a born killer for its prey! As imagine when a tiger can hunt animals as fast like deer or as strong as Indian gaur (bison is a wrong name) what chance a toothless, speedless, hornless, visionless (in dark) & strengthless animal like human can have against it as a prey? Yet there were pleas by many wild life lovers (conservationists) not to kill Avani but tranquilize her & keep in captivity. Now the doubts or rules books are being shown that a tiger neither can be tranquilized nor killed after darkness i.e. night time & Avani has been shot at night. Well, rules books are written by the humans, for the humans & Avani wasn’t a human (good for her or no one would have given a damn for her death)! When a tiger becomes man-eater it is smart enough to know that it’s better to prefers to move at night as its prey is at its weakest in dark i.e. humans! For two months after officially declaring Avani as man-eater & even Courts (well as usual every dispute in this country ends in Court i.e. judicially & Avani wasn’t exception) left decision to forest dept to kill or tranquilize Avani, entire force was searching for her & couldn’t find her as they were searching in day light. A tigress with cubs is always very cautious in her movements, even in reserved forests (apologies to tigresses Maya & Tara from Tadoba) & here she has become man-eater, just read Corbett books again how clever a tiger can become in such case! So personally I don’t think that forest dept didn’t tried to capture her as well tranquilize though even after doing that her survival in Zoo would have been difficult as seldom a regular man-eater has known to become comfortable in captivity. Also maintaining such main-eater tiger is also always a risk as it will keep seeing its prey all the time in front of its eyes & first thing such tiger will try is attack the nearest human which would have been constant threat to the Zoo staff! And still the issue of the two cubs would have been there as we all saw how much efforts were required even to sight Avani & here we are talking about tranquilizing three tigers at a time! And do mind eleven months old tiger cub may not be able to hunt but it can surely injure seriously to any human! So the risk was always there to capture all this lot & this is where conflict is happening between forest dept & all others!

I repeat, I don’t support killing of Avani or any tiger or even a snake but issue of being right or wrong does changes depending up one which side you are on & unfortunately humans rule this world not tigers is a bitter fact to which even forest dept is not exception! As scene must be there that any person in khaki (uniform color of forest as well police dep’t) would have been thrashed by the mob, had they not done something on the front of stopping Avani’s terror! And then as the second quote of Corbett terror can lead to serious rumors especially when three man –eaters tigers are roaming in an area over some hundred square kilometers with thousands of humans also along, the mess it must have created we just can’t imagine!

Now coming to the controversy of appointing a sharp shooter (read hunter) named some Shafath Ali & his Son Asgar! Well, how many of us can take the job of killing a man-eater tigress which has killed nearly thirteen people for sure, injured equal numbers as killed along many cattle amidst human settlements & yes which roams mostly at nights! Sorry, leave killing the tigress, try catching her alive by shooting a dart at her & tranquilize her! To my knowledge the dart has to be fired at least from twenty meters distance, which a tigress on charge can cover in fraction of seconds’ not even minutes, interesting, isn’t it! As even if you are a paid veterinary doctor affiliated to forest dept for this job but how many are skilled to do it as well how many times in your career you get to use such skill as firing a dart at a charging man-eater tigress, will you do it my wild life lover friends as I won’t even dream of doing it leave trying, is I can surely say for myself! About finding her at night & killing her, here one more thing I will like to ask, the entire forest dept was combing that area for months with news tracking. And if post sun set, news comes about sighting of the man eater tigress which you are desperately searching for, what you will do as an operation in charge? Tell the news barer to keep watch on the tigress till morning or keep following her with dart gun till the morning sun comes up! Sorry if I am sarcastic but I am really curious to know what your or mine course of action would have been as officer in charge in such case!

Well I think all above paragraphs might have made you think I am happy & satisfied with Avani’s death by gunshot, well I am not but ask the very same question to the concerned forest officers & see what they answer! They too are humans & their job was, is & will be to protect tigers along with all other species in which humans also comes! Remember, Avani wasn’t first tigress which became man-eater & shot dead, the important aspect we need to look on is, she can be the last tiger for dying so & what we will be doing for this outcome, is what I will ask to every person & not just to some wild life lovers! Few decades back there were just twelve hundred odd tigers left in this once tiger rich country; with everybody’s efforts the figuer is nearly doubled today yet in just last one year nearly fifty plus tigers died in this very country, what have we done on that front? Today the cry is over one Avani, as she got shot by the very dept (read forest) which was supposedly to be protecting her but then its only due to this forest dept she survived till she can give birth to two cubs, isn’t this we forgetting? In this country, tigers die on highways under speeding vehicles, tigers die on railway tracks passing through forests without any barriers around the tracks, tigers die due to electrocuting in the fencing around the farms, tigers die due to poaching, tiger die due to mob lynching as poor fellow has to come to village in open day light for search of water in summers, tigers die due to its fights with other tiger  over territory as we the humans are every day encroaching on tiger’s homes for our needs(I refrained using word greed) & yet nobody does anything about it! But just today we killed one tiger that too from pressure from another group of humans only who are not from Pune or Mumbai, we are trying to paint entire system as tiger killer, isnt something is seriously wrong? And if it’s a wrong act then it’s not just forest dept but every one of us is a tiger killer & eventually one day we will kill every specie not just tigers, without even using a gun but just making them die by their own fate which we are writing for them!

Avani, all I wish is your death won’t go in vain as even after your this much hyped death we the humans doesn’t learn that it’s not mistake of some govt dept, its mistake of entire society of we the humans that we don’t know how to protect a tiger or even a sparrow, then indeed we don’t deserve the tigers, is the harsh reality, God Bless Tigers!

Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

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