Expired dart fired on tigress Avni, says probe panel

The committee constituted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to enquire into the death of tiger T-1 (the official designation for the tigress known as Avni) in Pandharkawada on November 2, has concluded that the dart shot to immobilize the big cat had been used about 56 hours after it was prepared, well past the recommended 24 hours.

“The dart fired by Mukhbir Sheikh to immobilize T-1 was prepared by Dr B.M. Kadu, the veterinary officer on October 31, 2018, at 2.00 PM and was used after lapse of approximately 56 hours on November 2, 2018, at 11.00 PM. Dr. Kadu advised Mukhbir Sheikh to use the dart in his presence and within 24 hours,” the committee observed in its final report, a copy which has been seen by The Hindu.

The probe panel also faulted the planning and conduct of the operation that resulted in the tigress being shot and killed.

“Nor Mukhbir Sheikh or Asghar Ali Khan (whose primary duty was to carry out efforts to tranquilize and capture T-1) cared for the advice of expert. T-1 was seen multiple times on November 2, 2018, during daytime. Despite this, no proper planning was done for darting and capture of T-1 and cubs. There was no wildlife manager, veterinarian or biologist in the team. The team was not equipped to deal with the sedated tiger; team was not having reversal drugs, stretcher, capture cage, net, and manpower to locate T-1 after tranquilization. The rapid response team was not available.

“None of the team members was aware about induction phase, handling and care of immobilized animal and managing post sedation emergencies. Only back up team was of six labourers equipped with stick at a distance of approximately 1 km and reached to the T-1 elimination spot after 45 minutes after shooting. Therefore, it is evident that the darting of T-1 by the team is without adequate preparedness and not adhering to the standard operating procedure of NTCA,” the panel noted.

The panel also referred to the weapon used to shoot the tigress and suggested that the person who fired the gun had likely used it without appropriate authorisation.

“The weapon used by Asghar Ali Khan to shoot T-1 was licensed on his father Shafat Ali Khan and he was not present with the team which eliminated T-1. Asghar Ali Khan has not produced any authorization from his father to use the gun in his absence,” the panel noted in the report.