NAGPUR: Tigress Avni was shot and killed "when she was facing away" from the gunman hired by the Maharashtra government, the report of an independent government-appointed expert revealed here on Monday, giving a new dimension to the operation.
The detailed analytical report has been prepared by wildlife biologist Milind Pariwakam of the Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) who attended Avni's autopsy as a representative of Maharashtra's Principal Chief Conservator of Forests.
"Bullet trajectory as inferred from the post-mortem observations shows that the animal was facing away from the person who fired the bullet," Pariwakam has stated in the report, which forms an annexure to the autopsy report released earlier.
Contacted by IANS, Pariwakam declined to comment as separate committees appointed by the Centre and the state government are now probing the tigress' shooting.
Pariwakam's report raises doubts on the claims made by the hired shooter and officials that Avni was shot in 'self defence' after a darting attempt failed.
On this, the expert's observations during the autopsy was that only one bullet was found in Avni's carcass, plus no solid food remains recovered, indicating she was hungry since days.
"The path from the entry wound to the place where the bullet was lodged indicates that the trajectory is at an obtuse angle (as measured from the direction of the tigress' head) to the axis of the body (spinal axis, nose-to-tail), the place where the bullet was lodged and the trajectory of the bullet shows that the animal was facing away from the person who fired the bullet," he said in the report.
The official version that attempts were made to tranquilize the alleged man-eater fertile tigress also came under a cloud, with Pariwakam asserting that the dart was found with cannula (thin tube) piercing the skin on the left thigh.
"Dart fired from a syringe projector (a tranquilizing gun) always leaves a significant and obvious haematoma (bleeding with clots) which was not observed in this case," the report says, implying the dart was probably inserted after Avni's death.
Another interesting observation is that the weapon remains unidentified as also the empty bullet cartridge. Both were not deposited or made available to the autopsy team.
The tigress - identified as T1 - was shot dead in a late night operation on November 2 in the Pandharkavada Forest Division of Yavatmal district, sparking outrage and a public spat between Union Minister Maneka Gandhi and Maharashtra Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar.
Official sources, declining to be identified, indicated late on Monday evening that the expert's report with the fresh revelations would be submitted to the two committees enquiring into Avni's killing.
Avni's autopsy was conducted on November 3 afternoon at the Gorewada Zoo in Nagpur by Ajay Phoharkar, Livestock Development Officer, Veterinary Polyclinic, Nagpur, Dr S.V. Upadhye, Associate Professor and Deputy Director, Wildlife Research & Training Centre, Nagpur, Dr P.M. Sonkusale, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology, Nagpur Veterinary College, and Dr B.M. Kadu, Veterinary Officer (Wildlife), Nagpur, besides Pariwakam attending as WCT and the state government's expert representative.
Soon after the autopsy, Avni's body was cremated on a funeral pyre at the Gorewada Zoo.