Wild tigers scare Quang Ngai villagers

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Residents in the central province of Quang Ngai are living in fear after a group of wild tigers have begun coming into their village.

Dinh Xuan Hue, an official of the mountainous Son Linh Commune, Son Ha District, said people in the area since early this month have reported seeing tigers' footprints in their cassava fields.

Hue said he was "scared to death" one night when he found a tiger right in his garden in late February.

"My family dared not sleep that night. We were afraid the tigers might turn crazy and break into our house. Then we wouldn't know how to escape."

Some families in the area also reported having their pigs eaten by tigers at night, Hue said.

Vo Xuan Dong, chief police officer of Son Linh Commune, Son Ha District, said the residents started to recognize the tigers in late February after hearing their roars from the forest near their fields.

Sometimes the residents had to stay up all night to light fire and make enough noise to chase the tigers away.

Dinh Thi Uong, a 19-year-old resident, said residents had spotted many footprints of tiger.

The tigers have yet to cause any damage to the villagers but everybody is anxious and scared, Uong said. Some were too scared to go back to their fields.

In 1987, six tigers that appeared around the village killed 16 cows and a buffalo belonging to local residents. One of them was then shot dead by locals.

Tigers were also spotted in the mountainous Minh Long District once in the early 1990s. One of them was killed by an experienced hunter.

The villagers say the survivors might be returning.

But Hue said the recent appearance of the tigers was strange as there was little primeval forest in the area. He said local authorities are keeping a close watch for the animal, not only to protect local residents but also set up plans to conserve the tiger, the population of which has shrunk in Vietnam.

The International Tiger Coalition (ITC) estimates that just 30 tigers are living in the wild in Vietnam, mostly in forests around central provinces.

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