On 10 June 2022, an elephant attacked a village in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district in India and killed a 70-year-old woman. It later came back, still enraged and trampled her corpse furiously at her funeral.
The attack is believed to have been in response to poaching incidents that may have occurred at some point prior to the horrific event. But this vicious revenge killing isn’t the only one of its kind to have happened in the past. Back in 2016, a tiger in Kerala mauled a poacher—who later died in the hospital—after it was revealed that he had killed its partner. Both of these incidents have even gone viral on TikTok, with users making memes and reaction videos out of the news:
On Monday 10 June 2016, reports started circulating in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district that a tiger had killed a poacher out of revenge. This series of events began when forest officials in Palathdiyar arrested a man named Thamby for illicit activities in the jungle. He had also been accused of killing a tiger earlier in the year.
One member of Thamby’s group was an infamous poacher named Baby, who was killed by a tiger in March 2016. When arrested, Thamby confessed that his group had killed a tigress in February of the same year.
Ranni forest ranger KA Saju told The News Minute, “It was on 2 March that Baby was attacked and killed by the tiger. When we nabbed Thamby, he told us that they had killed a tigress on 27 February […] four days later, the group once again visited the same area to prepare arrack. Baby was alone for a while when the others went to get some vessels. It is then that one tiger attacked Baby. He was taken to a hospital but died on his way.”
Thamby later told police that the tiger that had attacked Baby could very well have been the partner of the tigress they had killed in February, implying that the carnivore had exacted a revenge killing on the poacher.
KA Saju was sceptical about these claims, however. “Thamby said it casually and we don’t have any proof of it […] Being a forest official for so many years, I have never heard of a tiger taking revenge for its partner’s death,” he admitted. “It may have happened but we are not sure about it.”
The argument on whether animals can hold grudges isn’t new.
Animal Planet’s predator expert David Salmoni told TIME that, “That tiger could have been surrounded by 10,000 people,” and if the animal had a mission, “it [would] avoid all of those people and just to go to those three people. There’s nothing more focused than a tiger who wants to kill something.”
He went into further detail, highlighting that what we see as a grudge can actually be conditional reinforcement in the carnivore’s case. “Any animal that can be trained can remember, and if you can remember, you can hold a grudge,” he explained.
According to Asiannet News, even though the tiger killed Baby, it continued to go after humans in the area. Tiger attacks became a regular occurence and CCTV that was installed confirmed the presence of a tiger. The Forest Department installed traps but they had had no luck in capturing the beast at the time of reporting.
What happened to the tiger remains to be seen, but from now on maybe you’ll think twice before provoking your cat or dog. Food for thought.