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NGOs demanding DNA test to identify Tigress Avni’s cubs

After a lot of hue and cry over the killing of the man-eating tigress Avni and later, on her missing cubs, now, there seems to be a sigh of relief with the spotting of the two 10-month-old orphaned cubs alive! However, with joy there comes a feeling of resentment as coincidently, another two tiger cubs of the similar age of 8-10 months were crushed under a train in the Junona range of forest in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra on Thursday morning. Hence, there is an old-time debate going on the safety of the tigers and their cubs in the country!

Animal Activist Anand Siva shared, “This government has been lying from day one – from the time Avni was declared a man-eater to their assurances to put efforts in tranquilising and not kill the tigress, and efforts taken to secure her cubs! This confirmation of their sighting is a temporary sigh of relief in hope and good faith. The road ahead should come with proof of their well-being and reassurance that they will remain secure and undisturbed, giving them a peaceful and rightful life, unlike the one their mother had!”

The tigress Avni, who was killed in a state-sanctioned hunt on November 3, her cubs who were missing from over 13 days have now been spotted in a forest in Maharashtra and could be rescued and rehabilitated, officials said on Thursday. Maharashtra state’s forest department’s AK Mishra said that the cubs were “healthy and are surviving” and that specialists would assess whether they had acquired a taste for humans from their mother. “The cubs may or may not have become man-eaters, depending on their proximity to their mother when she attacked humans. But we are hopeful of rescuing and rehabilitating them,” he said. However, experts say that these cubs are unable to survive in the wild at this moment. They learn to hunt in the age bracket of 12-18 months. They can only learn from their mother and not on their own.

On the condition of anonymity, a forest department official regretted, “When tigress Avni was killed, the cubs were seen somewhere around her. I wonder how there has been so much delay in finding the cubs.”

When AV spoke to AAP leader Preeti Menon, she said, “We have begged the CM and the forest officials repeatedly to get help from the states and other experts who have previous experience in capturing cubs. However, the Maharashtra government has done nothing. There is a lot of suspicion over the issue and the government and the officials are only serving the interest of the corporates who want forest lands.”

Many conservationists have raised questions on the decision of the Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar to kill Avni and also demanded his resignation. Union Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi had also urged the State government to appoint a team of vets and experts from different States to assist its effort from an independent team of veterinarians to locate the two cubs as attempts were being made to kill the tigress Avni’s missing cubs. As per our sources, it has come into the knowledge that to hunt down Avni, there were approx 200 people appointed but only a group of 30 rescuers were approached to trace her cubs which reveals the lack of interest to save the tigers from the department and the government.

Freelancer and Activist S. Krishna Kumar expressed his strong anguish for not only brutally killing the mother (Avni) and leaving her two small cubs orphaned stating, “Above all, right from the Forest Minister to the conservator and other officials and authorities, no one seems to have taken earnest efforts to trace these cubs all these days. It sends shivers down my spine that how the cubs lived for all these days. How should we believe that the two dead cubs found at Chandrapur are not of ‘Avni’?”

Along with activists and the opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ally Shiv Sena too upping its ante against Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar. As per the reports, it is learned that tigress Avni was killed by the BJP-led Maharashtra government to “save” a proposed project of industrialist Anil Ambani in Yavatmal, although a charge denied by the corporate group as well as a district official.

Animal welfare activist Akruti Sadashiv asserted, “I personally feel that Avni’s cubs are not safe. Moreover, by just throwing the flesh in the jungle, it is not possible to attract the cubs if they are in dire situation. In order to trace them, the government needs to have the willingness. Moreover, Mr. Mungantiwar should take entire responsibility and deliver the justice. Even the shooters of Avni should be interrogated as we suspect that they might have taken the advantage of the situation.”

While several animal rights activists, in order to ensure the safety of the tigers and its cubs, suggest that the Forest Department must keep a check on them with having tracking chip and keep an eye on their movement through the CCTV facility. It is also believed that animals are the invaders in the human locality or society. Nonetheless, many activists believe that there should be restrictions on humans to not encroach the forest areas.

S. Krishna Kumar further expressed, “They are after all tigers and they must belong to the ‘wild world’. They are not supposed to be within the walls and iron grills of our zoos. They must be given due medical treatment, kept under observation, and at the right time must be released in the forests. Also, no villager or any forest tribal must be allowed inside the Tigers’ area.”

While the reports of tracing down the missing cubs are out, the netizens and the activists find it hard to believe what the government claims as no further detailed disclosure on the cubs have come out. They have also demanded a DNA test to repudiate or confirm this; many suspicions have been raised on the same by AAP leader Preeti Sharma Menon. Firstly, it is unsettling to note that the forest department was prompt in declaring their ages as 6-month-old without post-mortem report. Later, the manner in which the two dead cubs lay on the railway track suggests no sign of accident, trauma or injury as such an accident may have caused as it shows no hit marks, there is no blood splattered nor is their tail injured. The image, which has been widely circulated on both mainstream and social media depict a carefully doctored and sanitised image. It is now also suspected that were the cubs found in Chandrapur are Avni’s cubs?

Preeti Menon further shared, “I don’t believe the Forest Depart-ment as well the Forest Minister. They lied about the killing of Tigress Avni and about how she was killed. While they said that she was killed in self-defence but it was very clear that she was killed with a full intention to kill. She was attracted with the urine of another tigress; the killing was planned very categorically. I find it very hard to believe that the two cubs suddenly were found dead at Chandrapur and at the same time we manage to trace the cubs of Avni. No efforts were put into in finding those cubs all these days.”


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