THE three-member National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) committee that probed the shooting of man-eater tigress T1 of Pandharkawda in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district on November 2 has, in its report submitted to the state government on November 28, pointed out violations of Arms and Drugs and Wildlife Protection Acts and stated that the self-defence claim of the shooting team is doubtful.
The panel has also laid procedural blames on two top officials, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) A K Mishra and Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra’s Divisional Manager at Yavatmal P N Wagh.
However, the report, while coming down heavily on two members of the shooting team, shooter Asghar Ali Khan and Forester Mukhbir Sheikh, has left several questions unanswered.
Khan was part of a team led by his father Shafath Ali Khan, who was in Patna when the shooting happened.
The panel, comprising retired Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest of Kerala O P Kaler, Deputy Director and Chief of Wildlife Crime Control Division and Communication of NGO Wildlife Trust of India Jose Louies and regional head of NTCA’s Nagpur-based office Hemant Kamdi, visited the incident site on November 13 and interacted with the five-member team that executed the operation and veterinarians deployed by the Forest Department.
Questioning the self-defence claim, the report says, “the dart was fired from approximately 12.8 m distance when T1 was crossing road, probably moving towards a nullah. T1 continued movement after darting in its natural path while snarling and growling at the team probably because of disturbance due to dart, moving vehicle and spot-light.
Within 3-5 second, Khan took one of the guns and shot T1 from the moving vehicle in sitting position. T1 was stunned by the impact and died on the spot. Evidences collated from sight, videos taken soon after the incident and recreation of event strongly supports the above observation. In view of the fact the firing in self-defence is doubtful.”
The panel, however, doesn’t corroborate the speculation that the tigress was first shot and then the dart was planted on her body.
Shafath had earlier claimed that the tigress charged at the team after being darted and Asghar fired in self-defence. The probe report cites the post-mortem report to back its doubt of the self-defence claim.
The report added, “The guns used by the team belong to Shafath Ali Khan. Asghar didn’t remember make, model and specification of the gun used for killing T1. He failed to produce his own all-India weapon licence to the NTCA committee which he claims to possess. This indicates that he is hiding the information.”
The probe finds Forester Sheikh guilty of unauthorised tranquilisation. It also blames the team for “violation of NTCA SOP”.
The report also says, “delegation of power by PCCF Mishra vested under Section 11(1)(a) of Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) to Chief Conservator of Forest (Yavatmal) P G Rahurkar and authorisation of precision by the CCF to capture or eliminate T1 is a violation of Section 5(2) of the said Act.”
When contacted Mishra said, “I see no violation in this. This is how orders have been issued in the past.”