No matter the deteriorating state of the environment globally, it appears that India continues to have a love-hate relationship with its national animal and apex predator, the tiger. Two tigers were killed over the weekend in ways that have environmentalists seething, most notably Maneka Gandhi, the Union Minister for Women and Child Development and a sworn advocate of environmental protection, who said she would pursue this matter legally and see that the guilty parties were brought to book. India currently has the largest population of wild tigers in the world, and due to major efforts to preserve its declining numbers, is estimated to have approximately 2,000 tigers.
The two cases of tigers being killed happened in separate locations and incidents, the first taking place in Maharashtra on Friday, the second in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday. In the Maharashtra incident, a tiger called “Avni” was killed when the state government hired a private shooter to eliminate a suspected maneater, felling the animal in an area 50 kilometers outside of the protected forest reserve that it inhabited. Sudhir Mungantiwar, Forest Minister for Maharashtra said that this action was carried out in accordance with the guidelines from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). However, Meet Ashar, lead emergency response coordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) questioned the logic provided for Avni’s killing, asking, “Why will a man-eater be starving after killing a dozen people and not retaliate while being chased? It was a cold-blooded murder.”
The second tiger was a female that was run over by a tractor and beaten to death by the locals of the area in the north of Uttar Pradesh who claimed that she had killed a man nearby. The argument that is made by the environmentalists, however, is that tigers, being the especially elusive animals that they are, are not likely to give up the safety of the jungle unless they feel threatened in their domain, something that has long been attributed to severe human encroachment, as is the case in a densely human populated country like India.