The Sumatran tiger emerges under darkness, its characteristic stripes instantly recognizable. As a cow lays lifeless on the ground, the tiger sinks its teeth into its hind leg, tugging strenuously but efficiently as it drags the large prey across the rustling grass. In mere minutes, it has disappeared back into the forest, armed with a hefty meal.
The rare images of the elusive big cat on the hunt were obtained from camera trap footage just outside a national park in Indonesia’s North Sumatra province on Dec. 24, according to Mustafa Imran Lubis from the Center for Natural Resources Conservation.
The next day, two missing cows were discovered by local authorities in Mount Leuser Forest, their necks ripped by tiger claws. The cows had belonged to two local residents. This is not the first time tigers have been found preying on cattle in the area. Between April and May this year, at least three similar incidents have occurred in the same national park.
Palber Turnip, an official from the management section of Mount Leuser National Park in which the forest is based, told VICE World News that the tiger caught on camera was about 5 years old.
"From our observations, the tiger was already released from its mother and was learning to be independent and looking for food on its own," he said.
Sumatran tigers are considered critically endangered, with less than 400 of them found in the world. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the habitat of the Sumatran tiger is being threatened by deforestation for agriculture and settlement.
While some believe that the tigers have turned to preying on cattle due to habitat loss, authorities said that may not be the case, and that in fact the area was a site of reforestation.
Other possible reasons for attacks on local livestock include dwindling prey in the forest, deteriorating health of the tiger, or the proximity of free-roaming livestock.
According to Ari Dongoran, the chairman of a local NGO that helps the government monitor Sumatran tigers, residents should avoid letting their livestock graze near the protected park.
Officials and residents have used a variety of methods to try and get the Sumatran tigers to remain in the forest, including scaring them off with loud bamboo firecrackers, installing camera traps, and patrolling forest borders at night.