On Monday morning, a panicked mob beat to death a fishing cat – colloquially known as “mechho bagh” – in Kushtia.
For Momena Begum, Monday dawned ordinary as she went about doing chores around the house. But suddenly, she was startled by the sight of an animal streaking past her house.
Scared, Momena shouted for help. When questioned, she could only describe that it was bigger than a regular cat and had distinctive markings on its body. The helpful mob interpreted this to mean the stripes of a tiger.
They cornered the feline in a construction pipe nearby. Attempting to scare it out of its hiding place, they shouted and banged metal pipes together.
A local named Abdus Salam tricked the big cat into a sack. As the animal thrashed about, the merciless mob fell upon it with sticks and pipes and bludgeoned it to death.
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The ill-fated cat is assumed to have come from the Sundarbans Collected
This was the fifth instance of a member of this species beaten to death over the past four months.
The fishing cat (prionailurus viverrinus) is on the Red List of Threatened Species by the International Union of Conservation of Nature. According to the IUCN's data, this particular animal, at four feet in length, should be categorised as a cub as it is much smaller than the full grown adult of the species.
The incident took place in Aburi village under Mirpur upazila's Malihad union. After beating the animal to death, they hanged it from a tree for public display.
The ill-fated cat is assumed to have come from the Sundarbans, one of the areas in Bangladesh where the fishing cat is known to roam.
Jumarat Ali, a local resident, said the fishing cat was frequently seen around the neighborhood after sunset.
Assistant Sub-Inspector Al Amin of Malihad police camp told the Dhaka Tribune that some locals had chased the animal in the morning, mistaking it for a fox.
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The endangered animal was finally buried afterwards, though.
Awami League Malihad union unit President Akram Hossain said the fishing cat was the fifth one to die in a human attack in the area in last few months.
“Previously, a fishing cat cub was killed in the same manner about four months ago,” he said.
Meanwhile, Aslam Majumder, divisional forest officer (for Kushtia, Meherpur and Chudanga districts) under the Forest Department's Khulna range, could not be reached over phone despite repeated attempts made by the Dhaka Tribune's Kushtia correspondent Al Mamun Sagor on Monday night.
Bangladeshi newspaper reports say that villagers killed at least 30 fishing cats between January 2010 and March 2013, according to Wikipedia.