As anxiety over the sighting of two tigers looms over Kampung Besul Lama in Bukit Besi, Dungun, Terengganu, local wildlife authorities have come out to allay villagers’ fears, saying that they now have the situation under control.
The police, however, are not taking any chances and have warned “adventurous” villagers to stay away from the location of the sightings and not turn the situation into a 'festival’.
Yesterday, a video of the tigers strolling casually in the village went viral over social media, but what was worrying was the sight of some villagers trying to get near the big cats.
While many continue to fret and fear for their safety, Terengganu Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) director Abd Malek Mohd Yusof assured them that they had nothing to worry about.
He said a search-and-trap operation undertaken by a 22-man strong team of Perhilitan officers and Rangers was initiated at 9.30am today.
Abd Malek, who earlier told the media that the tigers’ tamed behaviour indicated that they could be someone's pets, said two 24-hour monitored traps with chicken bait have been laid around a two-kilometre radius of the jungle, while another will be placed in the same area this evening.
He said at the same time, four teams comprising Perhilitan Rangers and veterinary officers and equipped with tranquillisers were already in the midst of the search and trap exercise.
Dungun police chief Supt Baharudin Abdullah, however, was more concerned with some of the villagers' apparent lack of fear and carefree attitude in the video, and warned them not to treat the sightings as if it was some sort of festival.
"The tigers may seem tame, but they are still wild animals and we are concerned about the people's safety. If the tigers are provoked and turn aggressive, then who is to be blamed?
“As far as the police is concerned, the situation is considered still unsafe as long as Perhilitan have not caught the tigers yet," he said when contacted.
As for the majority of the villagers, the tiger sighting was a real concern.
Zulkarnain Ismail, 31, said he worries over the safety of his 26-year-old pregnant wife, who commutes five kilometres daily from her workplace in Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM ) Bukit Besi on the same route where the tigers were seen strolling.
His said his wife, Suzana Mustafa, had a narrow escape when she was chased by one of the tigers while on her way to work at 2pm yesterday.
“We were travelling together but on separate motorcycles and I was riding right behind. Suddenly, a tiger lunged out from the bushes and chased after her. The animal only stopped chasing when a passing car honked loudly,” he said.
For villager Wook Mohd Noor, her face-to-face encounter with one of the tigers still sends shivers down her spine.
Wook, 63, is believed to be the first among the village folk to have spotted the tigers, said when her chickens began to cluck uncontrollably, she went out to check only to encounter a huge tiger near the coop.
“It was standing still but was staring straight at me. The thing that surprised me was that it was not aggressive and just hung around the area for almost an hour before leaving on its own,” she said.
Wook said she was extremely worried for her family's safety as their home is located in the fringes of the jungle.
“I have heard tigers roars from the jungle before, but this is first time I am seeing one alive,” she added.