Residents of a remote Indonesia village have killed a critically endangered Sumatran tiger because they thought it was a supernatural animal, more precisely a shapeshifter.
Shapeshifters are fictional creatures that often appear in mythology and folklore and are associated with dark magic.
The Sumatran tiger was slaughtered, disemboweled and hanged from a ceiling in public hall as people poured in to see the dead creature.
The whole superstition of a shapeshifter started after it was spotted roaming around the village since February. Some people also followed the tiger into the jungle on March 5, where it attacked and injured two men, said cbsnews.com, citing an AFP report.
"The tiger was sleeping under a resident's stilt house when the people struck him repeatedly in the abdomen with a spear," said an official from Batang Natal subdistrict, according to The Jakarta Post.
Though conservation officials requested people of the north Sumatra village not to hurt the animal, villagers took the matter into their hand as they believed officers won't help.
The Batang Natal official also said people knew that the animal was an endangered creature but they could not let go of the rumor that it was a shapeshifter.
"We had talked to them [the residents], even involving the National Army [TNI] officers, but they still won't listen to us," said Hotmauli Sianturi, who is the head of The Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) in North Sumatra, according to the website.
Only 400 Sumatran tigers are believed to be left today and are categorized as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Sumatran tigers, which are the smallest surviving tiger subspecies, are only found in the forests on the island of Sumatra. These animal are on the verge of extinction because of loss of habitat and intensive poaching.
According to worldwildlife.org, jail sentence and heavy fine will be imposed on anyone who is caught hunting a Sumatran tiger. However, Jakarta post reported that it is not only for the prevailing superstition of shapeshifters in the region that the tiger lost its life but also for lack of rangers to preserve the big cats.