NEW DELHI — Enraged villagers in northern India used sticks, spears, and machetes to beat a tiger to death after it attacked several people in a national tiger reserve, authorities said Friday.
A crowd encircled the tiger in a jungle clearing and hit it in the face as it lay on its back, groaning. The tiger slowly moved its paws in a futile attempt to block the blows.
The world has only about 4,000 tigers left in the wild, and most of them live in India. After a video of the incident spread on social media, many Indians expressed outrage, questioning how anyone could kill such an iconic and endangered animal.
“India’s National Animal Beaten to Death,” blared a headline across the screen on NDTV, one of India’s biggest television channels, which aired the video.
India’s effort to protect tigers is in some ways a victim of its own success. Closer monitoring, new technology, and stricter wildlife policies have led to a sharp increase in the tiger count, from 1,411 in 2006 to around 2,500 today. As India’s human population also grows, there have been more and more clashes with tigers.
The trouble this time began Wednesday afternoon in the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve, about 200 miles east of New Delhi, said Vaibhav Srivastava, Pilibhit’s district magistrate.
The tiger, a 5- to 6-year-old female, attacked a man who had entered the reserve to fish in a stream. Villagers who were working in rice paddies nearby tried to chase away the tiger, and in the ensuing battle, another eight people were injured, one of whom later died, Srivastava said.
Several dozen men quickly formed a posse intent on killing the tiger, forestry officials said.
When a small contingent of forest rangers tried to calm things down, the villagers roughed them up and snatched a mobile phone to stop them from calling for backup. The rangers were armed only with wooden sticks and were vastly outnumbered, said H. Rajamohan, the tiger reserve’s field director.
When senior forestry officials tried to reach the area, villagers blocked them and attacked their cars.
As they did so, others closed in on the tiger.