NAGPUR: Dismissing the last plea filed by a Mumbai-based organisation – Earth Brigade – and wildlife enthusiast Dr Jerryl Banait, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court has declined to stay the order by Forest Department to tranquilise and if necessary shoot the problem tigress T1 as a matter of last resort.
A division bench consisting of Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice Shriram Modak, refused to stay or modify the shoot-at-sight order and made it clear that it had attained finality at the Supreme Court. The petitioners repeatedly sought to omit the option of eliminating T-1 as a measure of last resort, but High Court permitted forest authorities, to take a final call, if it develops into threat to human life.
Through an order passed by Wildlife Warden-cum- Principal Chief Conservator of Forest of Maharashtra, A K Mishra on September 4, the Forest Department officials were directed to make all attempts to tranquilise the tigress, which is roaming in jungles near Pandharkawda in Yavatmal district, with its two cubs; and in case it develops threat to human life, then only take steps to eliminate it.
Opposing the plea of the petitioners that in no case tigress should be permitted to be eliminated; through an affidavit, the respondents have refuted the contention of the petitioners that the respondents have diluted the procedure while implementing the impugned order and pointed out to the court that the impugned order has been affirmed by the HC on September 6 and subsequently by the Supreme Court without any change. The impugned order was passed by the Chief Wildlife Warden, under Section 11 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Adv Shreerang Bhandarkar appeared for the petitioners. Adv Kartik Shukul (State Government and Forest Department) and Adv Mugdha Chandurkar (National Tiger Conservation Authority) represented the respondents.
After spending Rs 6 cr, teams fail to trap tigress
The Forest Department has spent around Rs 6 crore on the ongoing T1 tigress tranquilising operation so far. Interestingly, the teams and around 200 persons involved in the operation have not even seen the menacing tigress at least for once, informed reliable sources.
The department launched the tranquilising or shooting operation as last option from February, following shoot-at-sight order and court verdict. In haphazard manner it deployed its own teams and police sharp-shooters for the purpose. The operation continued for full summer season, when the chances of the problem tigress getting tranquilised by firing required dart were more. The jungle becomes dry enabling the teams to get a clear vision. There is also scarcity of water inside the territorial jungle for not getting the opportunity for the beast to run towards water body after being fired with dart, sources pointed out.
The whole favourable period was lost gradually but A K Misra, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), failed to intensify the operation as is being done now. The eight teams are finding adverse situation with growth of lantana weed, grass, bushes, scrubs and trees as well undulating areas in jungle. Now, 200 persons along with the teams, led by Nawab Shafath Ali Khan, veterinary doctors, police sharp-shooters, STPF jawans, field staff, forest labourers and others are conducting full-fledged operation from September 12. The tigress has killed 13 persons so far and one elephant has also killed a woman this month.
The department experimented thermal drone, power paraglider, five elephants, dog squad, etc., but in vain. It spent money on giving compensation to relatives of deceased, petrol-diesel for a fleet of over 50 vehicles, payments, travelling allowance, food, drinking water arrangements and other purposes. The sources estimated the expenditure on the operation from February till today at around Rs 6 crore. Nawab is charging nothing, sources added.
Sources pointed out that the job would have been accomplished at any moment in summer had the department deployed services of Nawab, an outsider shooter, in the start. The monsoon operation involved more expenditure without producing any tangible results.
During a visit to the affected villages, base camp between Sarati and Loni villages and HQ of Misra in Pandharkawda, on Sunday forest officers failed to tell about the cost of operation saying that it can be analysed only after finishing the job.
Now, paraglider, dog squad withdrawn from operation
After withdrawing five elephants and thermal drone, the Forest Department has now withdrawn power paraglider and dog squad from the tranquilising operation. Sources said the paraglider developed a mechanical fault and it also created noise.
There is a fear that the villagers would burn the paraglider, costing Rs 15 kept at base camp, if the tigress kills anyone. Therefore, it has been shifted at a safe place. The dog squad was kept for one week but it was found ineffective in tracing the beast.