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Indonesia

Superstitious villagers feared endangered Sumatran tiger was a shape-shifter, so they gutted it and hung it from a ceiling

There are only around 400 Sumatran tigers left in the world, meaning it is on the brink of extinction

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 March, 2018, 2:35pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 March, 2018, 3:09pm

A Sumatran tiger hangs, dead and disembowelled, from a ceiling in a public hall in a remote village in northern Indonesia.

A photograph shows the lifeless animal strapped to a wooden plank – and dozens of villagers crowded around to see it.

It’s not certain exactly why the critically endangered animal was slain Sunday in a village in North Sumatra, Indonesia, but local news reports say it had mauled at least one or two residents who had followed it to its lair – to determine whether it was a mythological, supernatural being.

The Jakarta Post reported that superstitious villagers feared it was a “siluman” or shape-shifter, and when rangers would not kill it, they took matters into their own hands and decided to kill it themselves.

“The tiger was sleeping under a resident’s stilt house when the people struck him repeatedly in the abdomen with a spear,” an official from the Batang Natal subdistrict told the newspaper about the slaying.

Hotmauli Sianturi, with the Natural Resources Conservation Agency, said that conservationists urged the residents not to harm it, explaining that a trap had been set to try to catch the big cat.

“We explained to the villagers that the tiger is an endangered animal … but they didn’t like our way of handling this situation,” she said.

Sianturi said that concerned residents “insisted on killing the tiger.”

Warning: graphic image below

“After killing the animal, the locals hung up its body for display. It’s very regrettable,” she said.

The incident occurred only a day after the United Nation’s World Wildlife Day. This year’s theme, “Big cats: predators under threat”, aimed to bring attention to big cats’ declining populations.

The Sumatran tiger, or Panthera tigris sumatrae, is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a critically endangered species, estimating that there are only about 400-500 of them remaining in their natural habitats of the forests of Sumatra.

The organisation states that the population was declining due to “habitat loss” from expanding oil palm plantations, “human-tiger conflict” and “illegal trade”.

Following an investigation into Sunday’s slaying, officials said that the tiger was missing internal organs as well as its teeth, claws and some of its skin.

Reuters reported the parts are sometimes sold as artefacts or used in traditional medicine.

“We regret that they killed the tiger,” Sianturi, with the Natural Resources Conservation Agency, told the news agency.

“We will prove that its body parts are being traded.”

It’s not clear whether those responsible for killing the tiger will face prosecution or what the penalties would be.

In 2015, four men in a village in Indonesia’s Aceh province were taken into custody after killing a Sumatran tiger and attempting to sell its body parts. They faced up to five years behind bars.

Additional reporting by Reuters and Agence France-Presse