ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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To Kill a Tigress

The killing of Avni, a conflict tigress in Yavatmal, Maharashtra, who was thought to have killed several people, led to a huge controversy. The issue raises questions on the drivers of human–wildlife conflict, the destiny of tigers in a human-inhabited and -modified landscape, and whether tiger reintroductions can happen in such a scenario.

Even as several activists and citizens attempted to avert the killing of a tigress who had been declared a man-eater in Yavatmal, Maharashtra, the tigress was shot in a night-time operation that flouted operating procedures set by the government. The tigress had been named Avni. The naming in itself indicates an anthropomorphisation, a humani­sation of a hitherto unknown wild animal. The campaign for saving Avni was centred strongly around frames valorised by human societies—that of motherhood, maternal instincts which guide the search for food, and the privacy of a mother (India Today 2018; Kaushik 2018). In some of the online campaigns and street protests for Avni, the fact that the tigress had two cubs who needed stewardship, rearing and mother’s care was emphasised and app­eared to partly overshadow any transgressions such as man-eating. The protests for Avni, as well as her subsequent shooting, herald a clash between activism centred around animal rights and field realities, and raises questions on how the interface between man and wildlife needs to be managed. The episode needs to be unpacked through its various layers—the urban/rural divide on values, the question of animal rights and wildlife conservation, upholding law and procedure, and the burning issue of human–wildlife conflict.

The first layer that emerges is the divide between urban and peri-urban or rural experiences. Similar to the case of Ustad, a tiger that allegedly killed several people in Ranthambore, the activism around keeping Avni was sustained, far from the forest. Environmental consciousness or ecological citizenship is becoming incre­asingly cosmopolitan (Lorimer 2010). There is an increasing number of people who feel they do not need to be local residents to raise an issue, but the question is problematised if local people face serious conflict or casualty. Protests for wildlife can then lead to deepening divides amongst the people.

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Updated On : 7th Dec, 2018
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