Rare Sumatran tiger killed by villagers in Indonesia

Sumatran tiger Jae Jae is reflected in glass during the annual stocktake at London Zoo in London, Britain. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

A rare Sumatran tiger was killed in a remote town in Indonesia on Sunday after villagers believed the animal to be a shape-shifting spirit. The killing deals a blow to conservation efforts being made for the already endangered tiger species.

According to a local official, the tiger was sleeping under a house in the North Sumatran village of Hatupangan when villagers attacked and killed it with a spear. The locals reportedly killed the endangered animal because they believed that the creature was a shape-shifting spirit.

The villagers reported the presence of the tiger to rangers, but when the rangers decided not to kill it, they took the matter into their own hands.

“The tiger was sleeping under a resident’s stilt house when the people struck him repeatedly in the abdomen with a spear,” said a local official.

However, superstition may not have been the only reason for killing the tiger, as conservation workers had noted that the carcass of the tiger was missing several body parts that have been known to be sold in black markets as traditional medicines.

Images that started to circulate online showed the carcass of the tiger strapped to a wooden plank and hanging from the ceiling of a public hall, with dozens of people crowning below to see it.

Hotmauli Sianturi from the Natural Resources Conservation Agency said that conservationists urged the residents not to harm the animal, as a trap has been set to try to catch the tiger.

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

The Sumatran tiger has been declared by the International Union of Conservation of Nature as a critically endangered species, with only an estimated 400-500 individuals remaining in their natural habitat in the jungles of Sumatra.

The tiger, which is the smallest surviving tiger subspecies, is facing the threat of extinction due to habitat loss, human-tiger conflict, and illegal trade.