The reasons why big cats turn on humans are complex and can be specific to individuals. But they can no longer be explained outside the context of climate change. Biodiversity depletion, habitat loss, extreme weather events, and a greater struggle over natural resources are affecting how animals live across the entire Indian subcontinent, and indeed the world. We should look to the case of Avni not for the peculiar baiting method, but rather for what her life and death tells us about the climate crisis.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for us to deny or look away from the effects of climate change. The climate is changing, bringing with it not just dry river beds or extreme weather events but big cats into cities, too. When leopards walk almost to the gates of New Delhi, or lounge on golf courses in Gurgaon, this isn’t an animal that is merely lost or straying.
When a tigress keeps hanging around people and, unfortunately, develops a taste for human flesh, this isn’t just one aberrant big cat. Avni and other big cats are symptomatic of what climate change is doing to our present. Categories and distinctions that we took for granted—such as tiger land versus human land—no longer apply, if they ever really did.
Another way to understand the climate breakdown, through the life of Avni and other big cats with similar fates in India, is as an irretrievable collapse of the commonsensical.