A Man Cut off a Dead Tiger’s Genitals to Improve His Own Sex Drive

Pseudoscientific beliefs of local forest communities in India are killing animals including tigers, sloth bears and wild boars. 
SJ
Mumbai, India
October 5, 2020, 4:09pm
A Man Cut off a Dead Tiger’s Genitals to Increase His Own Sex Drive 1
Photo courtesy of Kunal Dand on Unsplash

Earlier this month, an Indian man was arrested, along with two of his aides, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh for cutting off a tiger’s head and genitals. The man believed eating the tiger’s sex organs would increase his libido or sex drive.

The incident came to light last month, after a headless tiger carcass with missing claws and genitals was found floating in the Ken river running through Madhya Pradesh’s Panna tiger reserve. The bizarre killing of the tiger prompted outrage after authorities suspected the tiger was killed in a mating accident or by poachers.

However, the probe revealed that a man identified as Achchelal found a dead tiger floating in the river on August 8. With the help of two of his friends, the 60-year-old man severed the tiger’s head and buried it near his field to ward off stray cattle.

“In the last five months, there have been at least 27 recorded cases of wildlife species including tigers, sloth bears, snakes and even anteaters being killed in Madhya Pradesh based on pseudoscientific beliefs,” Indrajit Latey, a wildlife educator who works in various tiger reserves across central India, told VICE News. “It is part of shamanistic beliefs propagated by local healers known as vaidus,” he said.

A vaidu would approach members of local communities, who then lay makeshift traps, explained Latey. He added that the majority of these killings either don’t get reported in the media or are covered up by the forest department as natural deaths. “The case of the headless tiger got highlighted because Madhya Pradesh is seen with a lot of pride as the home of tigers in India,” Latey said.

Forest officials in Panna tiger reserve began investigating the headless tiger case last month due to mounting public pressure. The accused have been arrested by a special task force of the forest department, and have confessed to the crime.

This is the sixth tiger killing that occurred in the reserve in the last eight months. Madhya Pradesh is home to the largest number of tigers in India, with six dedicated reserves.

“These beliefs that tigers can be used to enhance strength or as an aphrodisiac exist everywhere, but people are encouraged to poach animals when they realise their commercial value,” Anirudh Chaoji, a wildlife conservationist, told VICE News. Chaoji works closely with forest communities and the forest department in the western Indian state of Maharashtra’s Tadoba tiger reserve. Chaoji said media glorification and misinformation contribute to the killings of tigers and other animals.

A similar instance of a tiger’s head being severed was reported from the same reserve in 2005.

Last year, Madhya Pradesh forest department arrested an infamous poacher who goes by the alias Yarlen, known for his fetish of eating sloth bear penises. Yarlen confessed to have killed hundreds of sloth bears, wild boars, tigers, and peacocks to eat or sell their reproductive organs.

Yarlen’s was the first case cracked by the forest department’s special task force, formed to investigate unnatural wildlife killings after multiple sloth bear carcasses were found without their sex organs.

The reproductive organs of these animals are said to have medicinal values in treating cancer, burns, pain, asthma and prevent liver damage. The bile juice produced in the gall bladder of bears is believed to cure ailments like epilepsy, hemorrhoids, and heart pain.

None of these theories have any scientific basis. However, these products have a high demand in illegal wildlife trade markets across China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau and South Korea.

Many traditions that stem from pseudoscientific school of thought look at tigers as a source of strength or power. Followers of Tantric Buddhism (a Buddhist tradition of mystical practices) believe that wearing tiger skin while meditating can protect from spiritual interference. According to ancient texts found in various Southeast Asian regions, the calcium and protein derived from tiger’s bones have powerful anti-inflammatory healing properties. Traditional Chinese texts claim that a tiger's penis is an aphrodisiac, while its teeth can be used to treat fevers, claws for insomnia, and whiskers to cure toothaches.

“This ‘traditional medicine’ has no verification and is usually verbally passed down in communities through mythology or hearsay,” Latey said.

Wildlife experts say that exaggerated stories, social hierarchies that revere local healers and illogical interpretations of ancient Hindu mythological texts have contributed to the issue. “These traditions continue to perpetuate because not enough people question them, or they have a placebo effect on the users. People would poach elephants for their tusks under the belief it would protect them from bad omens because the Hindu god Ganesha is missing one tusk,” he said.

In some cases, local forest communities have been accused of killing tigers who eat their cattle. Chaoji said this is the result of lack of awareness as well as lack of alternative forms of livelihood.

“From 2013 to 2020, there hasn’t been a single instance of tigers being poached in Tadoba,” he said. “This is because we have made the local communities stakeholders, and provided them livelihood opportunities in tourism or other means that don’t depend on the forest.”

Latey argues that awareness, education and implementation is the only way to break free of these beliefs. “But this can only happen when the educator earns the confidence of a community member, or they may not believe their scientific theories,” he said.

As a case study, Latey mentions an indigenous hunting community called Pardi, that gave up poaching after its members were offered employment in the tourism industry. “As children in these villages get education, they will question what a traditional medicine actually does to them,” he said, adding that the setting up of primary health centres in villages have also contributed to counter these pseudoscientific beliefs.

Home to 2,967 tigers, India accounts for 70 percent of the global tiger population. While the Indian government insists their tiger population has increased over the last year, wildlife experts worry about inadequate data collection that has led to this conclusion.

Follow Shamani on Instagram.