From last Thursday until Monday five Indonesia men from Aceh province endured a terrifying ordeal in Sumatra’s Mount Leuser National Park on the border of North Sumatra and Aceh provinces. For five days straight, the men were stranded atop a tree in a state of fear, dehydration and hunger as seven angry Sumatran tigers circled them below.
They fled to their perch in the forest canopy after five tigers attacked them, mauling a sixth man who also managed to escape, but whose tree branch broke.
While traipsing through the jungle in search of agarwood, a rare wood used to make incense and perfumes, the men invoked the fury of a group of tigers after accidentally killing a tiger cub in a trap that was intended to ensnare antelopes and deer for food.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
The survivors called nearby villagers on Thursday. A rescue party of 30, including police and soldiers, arrived three days later to find the incensed tigers still circling the tree. Fearful of approaching the severely endangered creatures they called in three local tamers who chanted mantras as they approached the tigers.
It ended up becoming a waiting game. “The tigers eventually just left,” district police chief Dicky Sondani told AFP.
During the ordeal, the men managed to survive by drinking rain water. The men were last reported to be on their way to the nearest village, a six-hour walk from the site of the incident.
The incident underscores the wider tensions between man and animal that exist in the region, where logging and poaching has all but wiped many endangered species off the map. Only 400-500 Sumatran tigers still exist in the wild, down from 1,000 in the 1970s.
The delicate ecological balance is further attested to by the existence of some 5,800 endangered Sumatran orangutans, alongside dwindling populations of elephants, rhinos and leopards.
Despite the risks, villagers continue to venture into the forest to claim valuable wood samples, such as agarwood. “It's worse this time because there are tigers waiting for the villagers,” Dicky added. “People keep entering the jungle to look for alim wood because it's very expensive; up to Rp 5 million ($505) per kilogram. But, well, that's the risk; there are many tigers and elephants in Gunung Leuser's jungle.”