New Delhi: A white tiger attacked and killed a 20-year-old man who apparently fell into its enclosure at the Delhi zoo on Tuesday.
Witnesses say the man, Maqsood, fell 18 feet into a dry moat in the tiger enclosure at around 1 pm. Moments later, the fully-grown tiger could be seen dragging his body by the neck. An image taken by witnesses shows him cowering before the animal, his hands folded.
Some say he lost his balance while trying to get a closer look; the zoo authorities claim he jumped in despite warnings.
"He crossed the barrier of the enclosure and jumped in," said Zoo Director Amitabh Agnihotri. Other officials claimed a guard had warned Maqsood after he crossed over the outer fence and had even taken him out, but he went back in.
A witness said he raced to the tiger enclosure after hearing screams, to see the man locked in the tiger's jaws, writhing in pain.
"We saw that a white tiger had gripped a man by his neck. No one helped him," said Himanshu, a visitor.
The body remained at the spot for hours, until guards scared the tiger into a cage.
Maqsood, who stayed in west Delhi with his parents and brother, worked in a factory. "The last time I spoke to him, he said he is going to work," said his mother Ishrat, in shock.
Witnesses say Maqsood suffered for an agonizing 10-15 minutes before dying. Security guards could do nothing; 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 until stones were thrown at it," said Bittu, who filmed the incident on his phone.
Zoo employees call the tiger Vijay. Born in 2007 in the zoo, the animal weighs 200 kg and has never attacked anyone before. It is one of the six white tigers in the zoo, and shares its enclosure with two others who were not seen today.
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.