Hang glider commissioned to locate 'man-eating' tigress Avni in Maharashtra's Ralegaon; search operation to commence today

FP Staff
With Avni's killing, the preservation of endangered species, the impact of their killing on the ecology, the loss of these beautiful creatures and even human encroachment on their territory are all major front-burner issues.

A powered hang glider has been commissioned to locate the "man-eater" tigress, identified as T1 or Avni, in Maharashtra's Ralegaon. The glider arrived at the base camp on Tuesday and a test flight was conducted near Anji village on Wednesday, The Indian Express reported.

"Our shooter Shafat Ali Khan has got it from Delhi. It will be making sorties from Thursday as part of the search operation," Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) AK Mishra told the newspaper. "They say it can give a bird's eye view of the terrain and it can be a useful addition," he added. Khan said that "it is for the first time that a hang glider is being used in an operation like this." The forest department has been using thermal drones for the past 10 days to locate the tigress.

Khan has also invited his friend Arjuna awardee golfer Jyoti Randhawa with his two dogs to track down the tigress, the report said.

The decision to commission the hang glider comes after several activists and NGOs came together to put out a petition saying 'Let Avni Live'.

According to reports, the Maharashtra forest department had claimed that the six-year-old tigress, along with two of her cubs, had consumed 60 percent of a human corpse in September which led to the decision of declaring her as a "man-eater". Reportedly, Avni had claimed at least 9 lives till September.

On 11 September, the apex court heard the petitions filed by Ajay Dubey of Bhopal's NGO Prayatna and Simarat Sandhu of the Save the Tiger campaign in Delhi. The petitions challenged the Bombay High Court's decision which gave the forest department a go-ahead to implement its order to tranquillize or shoot the tigress.

While the petitioners claimed that it has not been established that the corpse was eaten by the tigress and her cubs, the forest department maintained that the big cat was responsible for at least nine deaths. The department said they had been trying hard for the last six months to get to a 'touching distance' of the tigress to dart her with a tranquillizer, but have failed in doing so.

Senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for another petitioner, told the court that even if people entering the forest area get killed by the tigress, that does not make her a "man-eater". "A distinction has to be made between a tigress killing a human and a habitual man-eater," he said.

The petitioners urged a Bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta that if the tigress was shot dead, both her cubs would not be able to survive in the forest. The bench, while refusing to interfere with the high court decision, said the forest department would be bound by their own order to tranquillize her first and, in case of failure, shoot her.

Also See: 'Let Avni Live': Twitterati unite to save 'man-eater' tigress T1 after Maharashtra forest dept issues shoot-at-sight orders

Online plea opposes shoot-at-sight notice for tigress Avni: Experts say she deserves fair trial before being dubbed 'man-eater'

India vs West Indies: Bombay HC directs MCA to approach Supreme Court over feasibility of hosting fourth ODI

Read more on India by Firstpost.