In LIWC's documentary "Voice for Voiceless", we illustrate the conservation efforts of tigers in India and discuss with Dr. Jerryl Banait, a renowned wildlife conservationist, speaker, and human and animal rights activist, about his works in wildlife activism. We will zoom in on the case of Avni the Tigress, whose merciless murder prompted the young physician to organize a monumental movement that has forever amended Indian conservation laws, including the Standard Operating Procedures of the National Tiger Conservation Authority. Through this documentary, we also seek to shed light on the fact that wildlife conservation and urbanization could coexist, given that the corresponding governments responsibly create barriers dividing human and wildlife territories.
Below, we will outline the background behind Avni's murder and Dr. Jerryl's activism:
Tigers frequently roam as they please in Indian forests, thriving in their natural habitat. The amount of tigers in India has rapidly increased these past few years; in fact, according to BBC “the tiger population had risen from 2,226 in 2014 to 2,967 in 2018”. This is a major success story that continues to inspire millions of people around the globe, and it’s all thanks to animal rights activists who passionately pursue conservation of these big cats.
However, the rise of the tiger population correlates with an increase in casualties involving people. The promising rise of the tiger population may be fleeting at best. Specifically, increasing tiger attacks on the rural population of India have incited serious debates on how we should handle these tiger incidents. The problem surrounds the growing hostility of villagers towards tigers, as the labeling of these animals as “man-eaters” goes above and beyond to villainize them.
In India, tigers are protected under Indian law and can only be killed when they are deemed to be dangerous to human life. However, with actions aimed towards villainizing tigers increasing, people begin to go against the law and harm tigers. One prime example was the six year old tiger, Avni, who was a mother to two young cubs. She was also linked to at least thirteen human deaths; although, DNA evidence was only discovered for five of them.
India’s Supreme Court gave vague orders to shooters: kill Anvi if the tranquilizers fail and have a vet near the attack. Soon after, media reporters claim that there was no effort to either tranquilize Avni —the tranquilizer was fired after Avni was dead — or to bring a vet. What’s the most suspicious piece of detail in this story? Infamous big game hunter Ali Khan was the person who ultimately fired the shot that killed Avni. In the past, he’s slaughtered three tigers and other treasured species of animals in India, showing that he would have little to no remorse for Avni.
The tiger’s death was a clear violation to multiple laws, such as the Standing Operating Procedures, the Wildlife Protection Act, and the National Tiger Conservation Authority; yet, nobody was held accountable for defying orders.
Tigers naturally respond to danger, as it’s an instinct embedded deep within their biological nature. It’s important to look from multiple perspectives of this situation. The fact is that some of India’s forests are regulated. People are prohibited from entering because of the dangers of inhabited animals, like tigers. The main issue is that India’s current government hasn’t taken affirmative action in order to prevent another case like Avni’s. As a result, these animals are blamed for what, in reality, is inherently the fault of individuals who refuse to abide by certain rules.
Poachers and land speculators argue, if the prized tigers are dead, the forest land could essentially be given to corporates who wish to build urban infrastructure. Greedily seeking after economic gains, such powerful individuals appeal to corrupt government officials to ignore and conceal illegal poaching activities of big animals, clearing the forest of conflicting wildlife.
This is why activists, like Dr. Jerryl, have made it their life goal to selflessly strengthen tiger conservation and environmental protection. Dr. Jerryl is a highly esteemed wildlife conservationist. He was featured on TEDx, and spoke out about tiger conservation and environmental protection. His success, though, is also shared amongst his family members. The Banait family is prosperous for their work in medicine. Most of them are practicing physicians, ranging from paediatricians to obstetricians.
He also created the AVI Foundation, an organization created after Anvi’s death; the AVI Foundation prides itself for being a voice for voiceless animals. He has gathered so much support from fellow animal activists, politicians, and more. He has spoken out on topics like animal rights, urban deforestation, and more.
He is a well-known RTI activist, a human rights defender in India, who fights for transparency and accountability from the government and media. During the outbreak of COVID-19, Dr. Jerryl has issued a court case against the Union of India (WP 10795/2020), seeking to make PPE available to every healthcare worker in India through increasing its production capacity.
Dr. Jerryl Banait has even issued court cases against the tiger hunters in the Indian Supreme Court with the goal of objecting to the shooting orders directed at Anvi. He protests the idea of labeling any animal as a “man-eater” unless there is a significant amount of evidence that suggests so. Even then, he urges that encounters with animals are not their fault; rather, it is a failure of the Nagpur government to create such a narrow barrier between human existence and their neighboring wildlife. He attributes much of the deaths of innocent animals to urbanized deforestation and nonstop invasion of the originally biodiverse Indian ecosystem.
Nowadays, he continues to use his title and prestige to help both animals and humans, demonstrating his passion. Presenting lectures across schools, stadiums, and radio stations, Dr. Jerryl's actions have inspired more and more people around the globe to speak for the voiceless animals. And his activism through the AVI Foundation, ensuring access to healthcare for rural Indian villagers, has helped dozens of underserved communities. Furthermore, an interview with Dr. Jerryl and a documentary of his work was made to explain his selfless dedication to solving these problems.
Connect with Dr. Jerryl Banait:
Facebook: @Jerryl Banait
Connect with Leaders in Wildlife Conservation:
Youtube: Leaders in Wildlife Conservation
This project was directed by:
Eric Zhu Liu
The Times of India - In Court, I am the Voice of the Tiger
BBC - Man-eating Indian Tiger Faces 'Shoot-to-kill' Order
Vanity Fair - India’s “Cecil the Lion” Moment: Inside the Controversial Shooting of a Man-Eating Tiger
CBS News - Backlash in India over killing of man-eating tiger "Avni"
Ted - The Change in Label Maneater
The Live Nagpur - Jerryl Banait Organize a Prayer to Meet in the Memory of T1 Tigeress
The Live Nagpur - Brainstorming Against the Ill Effects of Urbanization
Huffington Post - Docs Fighting Coronavirus Urgently Need Safety Gear, Not Insurance From Modi Govt
The Economic Times - SC Seeks Govt Response on Doctor's PPE Plea for Medical Fraternity
Hindustan Times - Covid Warrior: Maharashtra Doctor Takes the Fight to Protect Healthcare Workers to Supreme Court
Hindustan Times - Supreme Court Asks Center, State Governments to Ensure Security of Doctors
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