Villagers Kill Endangered Tiger After Mistaking It For a Mythological Shape-Shifter


Madison Dapcevich


Madison Dapcevich

Freelance Writer and Fact-Checker

Madison is a freelance science reporter and full-time fact-checker based in the wild Rocky Mountains of western Montana.

Freelance Writer and Fact-Checker


The graphic image below shows a dead, disemboweled Sumatran tiger hanging from a ceiling in a public hall in an Indonesian village. 

A day after the United Nations dedicated its World Wildlife Day to big cats under the banner "predators under threat,” the endangered male was killed after mauling “at least one or two” residents, according to the Washington Post.


The tiger was reportedly roaming Mandailing Natal village in North Sumatra for over a month. Residents became fearful, believing the tiger to be a mythological shape-shifter called “siluman," reports the Jakarta Post.

"We had talked to them [the residents], even involving the National Army [TNI] officers, but they still won't listen to us," an official with the Jakarta Resources Conservation told the newspaper.

Villagers took matters into their own hands.  


The tiger was reportedly sleeping under a resident’s house when he was struck repeatedly in the abdomen with a spear.


“We explained to the villagers that the tiger is an endangered animal... but they didn’t like our way of handling this situation,” Hotmauli Sianturi, of the Natural Resources Conservation Agency, told Reuters.

Sianturi says the villagers used a trap to try and capture the cat.

“We regret that they killed the tiger. We will prove that its body parts are being traded,” she added. An investigation showed the tiger was missing several body parts, including canine teeth, claws, and skin off its face and tail possibly used in traditional medicine or sold on illegal markets.

Indonesian law prohibits the capturing, injuring, or killing of protected animals like the critically endangered Sumatran Tiger. According to the Washington Post, offenders could see a prison sentence up to five years and a fine of approximately $7,000 – but there is an exception for animals that “endanger human life.”


Increasing populations and decreasing habitat make human-tiger conflict more common.

A quick google search finds dozens of reports of fatal tiger attacks. In 2009, six people were killed by a Sumatran tiger. Two years later, a 5-year-old girl was mauled to death while playing at her family plantation. 

It’s not the first time villagers have taken up arms in fear of encroaching tigers, either. In 2017, India’s state forest department issued a shoot-to-kill order after a relocated tigress killed four people.

It begs the question: how do officials protect both people and endangered predators?


Some recommend predictive modeling might be the solution. A 2015 Yale study suggests mapping past tiger attacks, as well as current routes and habits established by resident tigers, might help villages and officials better understand where and when these attacks might happen and how to best avoid them.

With an estimated 400 Sumatran tigers remaining in natural habitats, the answer hopefully comes sooner than later.

A better question though may be: How do you get people who live daily with the reality of these creatures to want to protect them?


  • tag
  • tiger,

  • endangered,

  • big cats,

  • Indonesia,

  • sumatran tiger,

  • World Wildlife Day