Wildlife activist Jerryl Banait has moved a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court against the Bombay High Court’s go-ahead to the Forest Department to implement its order to tranquilise or shoot the problem tigress of Maharashtra’s Yavatmal and capture her two cubs.
Banait’s lawyer Tushar Mandlekar said, ” We moved the SLP on Friday and have brought it to the notice of the Chief Justice, who has posted it for Tuesday. ”
The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court had, on Thursday, rejected Banait’s plea to restrain the Forest Department from going ahead with the Chief Wildlife Warden A K Mishra’s order on Wednesday to shoot the problem tigress, T1, from Ralegaon forest of Yavatmal district. The six-year-old tigress and her two nine-month-old cubs were found by the Department to be responsible for killing three graziers in 24 days in August. She was also found to be responsible for the deaths of at least two of the ten earlier human deaths in the area, in November 2017 and January 2018. It was in January that the first shoot order was issued against the tigress but Banait and others had moved the HC then following the discovery that the tigerss was actually moving with two newly-born cubs. The HC had stayed the shoot order in February.
Asked about the grounds for the SLP, Mandlekar said, “We have argued that the HC hasn’t applied its mind in allowing the shooting. It hasn’t checked the fact that the Forest Department has made no effort to capture the tigress in the past seven months. It has also not seen that standard operating procedure wasn’t followed in the run-up to the issuance of the said order. The HC has failed to see that the evidence the department has furnished to label the tigress as a human killer are not reliable at all. Also, the court has observed that the directions for SOP under Section 38(O) of Wildlife Protection Act are merely suggestive and not mandatory. If that is true, then why have the section at all?
“The question now is: till the Supreme Court hears it on Tuesday, will the Forest Department show the sagacity not to shoot the tigress? We have to only keep our fingers crossed,” Mandlekar said.
The Forest Department had moved a caveat in SC in the matter on Friday. Asked if his team will observe restraint till Tuesday, Mishra said, “in such matters, you can’t predict anything in particular. It all depends on various factors. We have a large area of more than 4,000 hectares where the family is moving. The opportunity may come early or late. It is for the ground staff and the sharp-shooters to decide when, where and how they will do it. Of course, the attempt would be to capture her first but it all depends on how the situation presents itself. But I feel given the difficult situation and the fact that the tigress is with cubs, it’s likely to be a long haul.”
Meanwhile, a rescue team from Madhya Pradesh Pench Tiger Reserve was scheduled to arrive at the conflict spot on Saturday, according to Deputy Conservator of Forest K M Abharna. “Two elephants are also coming from there today and we will be scouting the area first,” she said. “We have also got four sharp-shooters from Police Department, one each for the four teams in place for the operation, as also veterinarians,” she added.
Abharna said she has sought the list of all graziers in the area from village-level officials like talathis and have told them to ensure that no one enters the forest.
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