Six top tiger conservationists have come out in support of the efforts under way to capture or shoot the tigress, T1, from Pandharkawda forest division in Yavatmal district. Bittu Sahgal, Belinda Wright, M K Ranjitsinh, Raghu Chundawat, Anish Andheria and Vinod Rishi have written letters to Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) A K Mishra, lending support to the efforts. The support assumes significance against the background of displeasure and agitation among many wildlife activists and lovers in the country, as well as abroad, against the possibility of the tigress being shot dead, instead of being captured alive.
A procession had been organised by some of them in the city, voicing their opposition to having private sharp-shooter Shafath Ali Khan for the operation. A global signature drive has also been initiated in some countries to garner support against shooting the animal. In his letter, Sahgal, member of the Maharashtra State Wildlife Board and editor of Sanctuary Asia magazine, says, “My life has been dedicated to saving ‘the’ tiger, which is a different matter than saving ‘a’ tiger, which is what the misguided press reports and social media campaigns seem to be focusing on this point.”
Wright, Executive Director of Wildlife Protection Society of India, says, “I am writing to support the Section 11 order (Wildlife Protection Act) issued by you. I understand that DNA analysis, camera trap pictures, pugmarks and ocular evidence directly connect the human kills with T1. My fear is that if these tigers are not checked, we will have a generation of man-eaters in the region. As a conservationist, my objective is to secure a future for wild tigers in India. But our battle must be about the tiger, not a tiger. I am certain that removal of these tigers from this area is a necessary step. If T1 and her cubs are not removed there is every possibility of retaliatory killings by the villagers, and these killings would not just be limited to the problem animals. So, I give my support to your effort in this extremely difficult terrain.” Chundawat, a wildlife scientist, says, “My support for removal of man-eating tigers is based on the fact that tigers now survive in less than seven per cent of their original habitat and range restriction is an early sign of extinction. Therefore, our first effort must be to reverse this trend for their better survival in tiger habitats outside our protected area network. Here co-existence for tiger entirely depends on the goodwill of the local community. A man-eating tiger destroys the equilibrium and generates anti-tiger sentiments among the communities, which our conservation efforts cannot afford. I am therefore in agreement with the conservation community, who are in support of removal of the tiger before further loss of human lives.”
Ranjitsinh, former director, Wildlife Preservation, India, says, “It is evident that the tigress, T1, is a confirmed man-eater and if she continues, she will train her cubs also in her ways. Apart from the threat to human life and the tangible terror that ensues, the antipathy against the tiger that results from the prolonged operation of a man-eater harms the future conservation interests of the species as such.” He adds: “In my opinion, a man-eater taken captive from the wild is of no conservation value. It can never be released and we are overloaded with captive tigers. Besides, if a man-eater is exhibited in a zoo, it will create fear and revulsion… I would, therefore, suggest that all methods to take out the tigress be tried simultaneously, killing, capturing and tranquilising, whichever works the earliest, as human lives are at stake and time is of essence.”