Tiger lover in court for man-eater
OUR LEGAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, Jan. 11: A wildlife activist has moved the Supreme Court against a decision by local authorities in Uttar Pradesh to place a bounty on a “man-eating” tiger.
Tiger conservation pioneer Navin M. Raheja has sought a directive for the cash award of Rs 5,000, announced by the Barabanki district magistrate, to be withdrawn and the two-and-a-half-year old tiger tranquillised and captured, not killed.
“It is against law to place such a bounty on an animal’s head. The poor animal will now be lynched by bounty-hunters,” Raheja argued before a bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan on Friday. He sought the court’s “urgent” intervention to save the animal, blamed for the disappearance of villagers in Pilibhit, Shahjahanpur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Sitapur, Barabanki and Lucknow.
Barabanki district magistrate K.R. Nayak had declared the tiger a “man-eater” after villagers claimed it had killed a boy, and announced the reward. Villagers said the victim was Khushi Ram, 14, of Serai Bilari village, 40km from Lucknow.
Raheja claimed there was no proof the animal had turned a man-eater. “…It is not a proven man-eater as it has not eaten any person as reported,” he said, adding that the “bounty” was a knee-jerk reaction after the forest department’s failure to catch the tiger.
After word of the bounty spread, Raheja claimed “armed” members of the Bhartiya Kisan Union had hit the streets looking for the tiger. “(The) steps taken by officials of the forest department and the district magistrate, Barabanki, to catch the tiger are illegal and arbitrary and may also endanger the life of other tigers.”
Raheja voiced fears that the wrong animal may be killed. “The knowledge of people being very low, they might kill other tigers or even leopards,” he said.
It is the duty of the forest department to tranquillise the tiger with the help of experts and then catch it, Raheja said.
The Centre had frowned on the “bounty” last month and asked the Uttar Pradesh authorities to capture the tiger alive. Tigers are a protected species in the country. Only 3,000 to 3,500 were said to be left, according to the last census.