What can kill a tiger

New Delhi (AP) - It happened when Bhadai Tharu cut grass in the forest with more than a hundred other villagers. The tiger protector from Nepal wanted to use the grass to repair the roof of his house. Like every year.

But then came the endangered animal out of nowhere, whose forest Tharu patrolled daily and which he protected from poachers with sticks. The poachers often sell the tiger's body parts illegally to China - where they end up as decorative items or as part of traditional Chinese medicine.

"Suddenly the tiger jumped on me and hit me so hard that I lost my consciousness for a few seconds," Tharu told the German press agency. "And when I woke up, he was still holding me down with his claws." Covered in blood, he wrestled with the predator. Other villagers came to his aid, and at some point the animal ran away.

"I thought I was going to die," says Tharu. "Everyone thought I was going to die because it's unusual to survive a tiger attack." He lost his eye, but the doctors saved his life. That was 16 years ago. Tharu decided to continue fighting for Tiger anyway. "I think the tiger spared my life because he wanted me to survive and keep working for him."

Conservationists like Tharu are successful in Nepal and other parts of South Asia. According to the nature conservation organization WWF, the number of tigers is growing. Ten years ago these countries as well as the tiger states in Southeast Asia, Russia and China decided to double the number of threatened big cats by the Chinese "Year of the Tiger" 2022. India, for example, which according to animal rights activists has by far the largest number of tigers, has already achieved this goal. There are almost 3,000 animals there, according to the WWF.

But such successes can also have downsides - in a world in which there is less and less wilderness and more and more people. For WWF tiger expert Kathrin Samson it is clear: "Conflicts between humans and tigers will increase in the future." Tharu has also been driving tigers away with torches near his village lately.

Tiger expert Samson says that tigers usually attack people when they enter their habitat - for example when people collect firewood in the protected forest, graze livestock, hunt, when they - like the tiger protector Tharu - cut grass there, and on tiger safaris when they do Minimum distance is not observed. The tigers rarely target cows, which as farm animals are easier to hunt than wild animals. However, if the predators would kill people several times in rare cases, many species and animal rights activists often only have the option of killing or capturing the animal concerned.

"The willingness of the local population to protect tigers can quickly tip if it gets their money's worth," says the coordinator of the IUCN's tiger habitat protection program, Sugoto Roy. Villagers in tiger states have already killed tigers after they had previously killed roommates.

But while the predator is perceived as a nuisance in Southeast Asia and the number of tigers there is falling or stagnating, as Samson says, people in Hindu countries like India and Nepal are more open to tiger protection. In India and Nepal, governments are also aware of their importance for wildlife tourism. In the largest tiger state, India, tiger hunting was banned as early as the 1970s. Protected areas are also well protected from poachers and prey animals are hunted less because of a great vegetarian tradition in the country, says Roy from the World Conservation Union. In addition, people who lose relatives to a tiger would be quickly compensated.

But relatives of tiger victims are not helped everywhere. In parts of Bangladesh, for example, their wives are often cast out by extended families and driven out of the village. The widows are called "unfortunate" - popular belief that the death of a man is the punishment for an offense by his wife.

But even where the number of tigers is decreasing, according to WWF, there are conflicts between them and people. On the Indonesian island of Sumatra, for example, where animal habitats are often converted into palm oil plantations, the dismembered remains of a young woman were found last December. According to media reports, she went swimming - near a protected forest area where the rare Sumatran tiger lives. Particularly tragic: An uncle of the victim reported to the "Kompas.com" portal that he had previously encountered a two-meter-long tiger on the coffee field. With soothing speech, he convinced the predator to turn away from him and look for prey elsewhere.

In order to reduce such conflicts, WWF and other organizations have run projects to save people as much as possible from going to the tiger reserve. So that they do not have to collect firewood and thus do not damage the tiger habitat, WWF provides them with gas stoves. They also educate people about the animals' natural routes.