A white tiger attacked and killed a 20-year-old man who apparently fell into its enclosure at the Delhi zoo on Tuesday.
Witnesses claim the man, identified as Maksood, fell 18 feet into a dry moat in the tiger enclosure at around 1 pm. Moments later, the fully-grown tiger could be seen mauling him.
It is not clear how he fell; some say the barricade was too low and he fell in. An image taken by witnesses shows him cowering before the animal, his hands folded.
“He crossed the barrier of the enclosure and jumped in,” said Zoo Director Amitabh Agnihotri. He said the enclosures are “absolutely safe” and no visitor can access the moat without crossing the barrier.
A witness said he raced to the tiger enclosure after hearing screams, to see the man locked in the tiger’s jaws, “writhing badly in pain”.
“We saw some kids throwing in small sticks and stones inside the tiger enclosure. Then we saw that a white tiger had gripped a man by his neck. No one helped him,” said Himanshu, a visitor.
Authorities eventually frightened the tiger into a small cage inside the enclosure. The body remained at the spot two hours after the attack, said AP.
Witnesses say the man suffered for an agonizing 10-15 minutes before dying. But security guards were allegedly not equipped to save the man; witnesses claim they didn’t have tranquilizer guns or wireless sets to call in reinforcements. The Zoo authorities deny it.
“The tiger didn’t attack at first till stones were thrown at it. The man tried to run away but the tiger swiped at him, wounding his neck. Then it carried him away by the head,” said Bittu, a witness who filmed the horrific incident on his mobile phone.
Another witness said security guards spent too much time trying to shoo people away from the enclosure.
White tigers are found in southern and eastern Asia, particularly India, and owe their appearance to a recessive gene. They are regarded as an endangered species.