Sugito, who worked in a tofu factory and was known only by his first name, according to the Daily Mail, had been collecting grass for his cattle or possibly vegetables Friday when he wandered into a licensed sanctuary that breeds endangered saltwater and New Guinea crocodiles.
Guards heard his screams for help, but by the time help arrived, it was too late.
Over the next day, animus among the villagers toward the animals — and the people raising them — intensified.
At first the outraged villagers tore apart the sanctuary’s office. Then they went after the animals.
Videos from the scene showed villagers hacking at crocodiles with hoes and machetes until they stopped moving. Others worked in teams to pull the animals out of the water, then tied their mouths so they were helpless against what came next.
The villagers killed adult crocodiles nearly seven feet long and pulled hatchlings from nests, bashing them against the ground until they stopped moving.
As many as 40 police officers tried to stop the killings, the Daily Mail reported, but the crowd had swelled to 600 and could not be stopped.
“We couldn’t do anything. We were outnumbered. The situation was so tense,” Sorong Police Chief Dewa Made Sutrahna told ABC News.
In total, the villagers killed 292 crocodiles.
When every reptile was dead, they dragged them into a giant, bloody pile, then took selfies.
Killing a protected species is a crime in Indonesia that could result in a fine or imprisonment, according to the BBC. Still, no charges have been brought against anyone involved in the mass cull.
Although the sanctuary was licensed, officials suggested that a security guard whose job was to keep people away from the dangerous animals may be charged with negligence. Others questioned the logic of keeping ponds full of crocodiles so close to a populated village.
For most animals, killing a human is usually a death sentence — a sign that the specific animal is diseased or has grown too bold in its search for human food. And some municipalities have laws that require wild animals that attack or bite humans to be euthanized and tested for rabies. For example, a cougar that killed one biker and injured another in rural Washington state in May was severely emaciated and behaving erratically, and ultimately was tracked and killed. And the Disney World alligator that snatched a 2-year-old boy into a pond in 2016 was euthanized, although several others were “humanely removed.”
But killing wild animals for behaving like wild animals is a subject of intense debate.
As The Washington Post’s Karin Brulliard wrote in 2016:
The justice system for wild animal attackers varies across jurisdictions, and sometimes by species. But there’s no Innocence Project for animals, and generally no trials (though some national parks have approaches that amount to something like that). Instead, the prevailing idea, experts say, is that human safety is paramount, and if a wild animal attacks once, it might do it again.
Still, it is rare for humans to declare war on an entire species because of one attack — especially if the species is endangered.
And people across the world were condemning the mass killing.
It’s particularly troubling that, although nearly 300 crocodiles were killed, it’s unclear whether the animal that killed Sugito was among them.