Whenever an animal is added to the endangered species list, it’s because the animal is becoming so rare that it’s in danger of dying out, and such is the case with the endangered Sumatran tiger. Unfortunately, the species’ population has lost another member after a tiger fell victim to superstition when it was mistaken for a shape-shifter.
Multiple media outlets are reporting that villagers in the village of Hatorangan on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia brutally attacked an endangered tiger earlier this week. The Jakarta Post reports that the villagers disemboweled the tiger on Sunday and then hung its body up for display on the ceiling of the public hall.
A local official told the newspaper that the endangered tiger had been asleep underneath the home of one of the villagers when they attacked it, spearing it repeatedly in the stomach. The official also said that the villagers were aware the Sumatran tiger is an endangered animal, but they killed it because of rumors that a shape-shifter had been staying close to the village for more than a month.
According to Reuters, local conservationists had reportedly asked the villagers not to kill the tiger, saying that they had set a trap to catch it, but the villagers wouldn’t listen. Instead, their fear of what they thought to be a shape-shifter won out.
Presumably, the villagers who killed the endangered Sumatran tiger haven’t even seen Supernatural, Grimm, or any of the other popular U.S. sci-fi shows featuring unusual creatures with special powers. However, the South East Asia website Latitudes has said that legends involving shape-shifters abound in Indonesia without international influence. According to the blog, superstitious villagers in the island nation tend to believe many stories about shape-shifters with supernatural powers that can turn into not only tigers but also cats, panthers, dogs and crocodiles.
Officials have told local media outlets that the villagers who killed the endangered Sumatran tiger must be dealt with. It’s unclear what kind of punishment might be handed out, but The Washington Post states that hunting tigers is illegal and can result in jailtime. Investigators in the Sumatran village said that the slain tiger was missing some internal organs, skin, claws and teeth, which suggests that the villagers intend to sell them.
Conservationists have been keeping a close eye on many endangered species such as the orangutan population in Borneo, noting that their numbers are thinning out at alarming rates due to conflicts with area residents, reports Reuters. The report about the endangered Sumatran tiger being slain comes just days after World Wildlife Day, which the United Nations observes to raise awareness about endangered animals. Ironically, according to The Washington Post, the theme of this year’s World Wildlife Day was “Big cats: predators under threat.”
The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the Sumatran tiger as critically endangered. The organization estimates that there may only be about 400 to 500 of the endangered tigers left in the Sumatran forests, although others put the population closer to 600. The organization blames “habitat loss” for the rapidly declining number of Sumatran tigers, which the World Wildlife Fund states are the “smallest surviving tiger subspecies.”