Banda Aceh — A Sumatran tiger died during a flight from Medan to Aceh on Tuesday, after an airline refused to fly the critically endangered cat and several other animals to their East Java destination.
The 7-year-old male tiger, along with a siamang (tailless gibbon) and two binturongs (Asian bearcats), left Sultan Iskandar Muda Airport in Aceh Besar on Tuesday and were supposed to be flown to a theme park in Kota Batu, East Java.
However, upon stopping over in Medan, the airline sent the animals back to Aceh, citing complaints from passengers.
“We were planning to fly the tiger, named Tuan Agam, to Jawa Timur Park II, on board a commercial cargo plane. But upon landing in Medan, the animals were sent back to Aceh because the passengers complained about their unpleasant odors,” Affan Absori, an official with the Aceh office of the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), said in Banda Aceh on Wednesday.
He added that the animals were returned to the airport in Aceh Besar on the same day, where the tiger was found motionless as the plane landed.
Affan said the tiger, initially thought to be only unconscious, was later determined to be dead.
Officials are still investigating the cause of death, as the four animals had been in good condition before the flights, he added.
Citing the preliminary results of an autopsy performed at Syiah Kuala University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, Affan said there was a bruise on the tiger’s right cheek, its nose and mouth were bleeding, its tongue was bluish and its right front leg was injured.
Affan said the tiger was first captured in South Aceh district’s Panton Luas village in November 2010 after it allegedly attacked and ate a villager there.
It had been caged at the BKSDA office in Banda Aceh for two years before Tuesday’s ill-fated flight.