Five men who have been clinging to the branches of a tree for four days as snarling tigers prowled beneath them might have to remain there until the middle of this week, rescuers said last night.
The Sumatran tigers killed a six member of the party and ate half of his remains before chasing his companions who clambered up the tree - hoping the tigers would not follow.
The tigers had hunted down the group after they unwittingly killed a tiger cub, which fell into a trap they had set to catch a deer for food.
Finding the cub dying from its injuries, the pack of tigers gave chase after the men and caught one, named only as David. He was quickly torn apart and half his body consumed.
The men, from Simpang Kiri village in Aceh, northern Sumatra, had gone into the dense forest in search of agar wood, which is very rare, expensive and used in the production of incense and aromatic oils.
Just 1lb of agar wood can fetch up to £175, resulting in villagers risking their lives to enter the jungles of the Gunung Leuser National Park where tigers and dangerous elephants roam.
'We can't go rushing in to rescue the men in the tree because of the remoteness and because of the tigers still being there at the base of the tree,' said Police Chief Dicky Sondani.
He told the Jakarta Globe that villagers enter the jungle to look for the pricey wood but they were risking their lives doing so.
'The group were attacked by tigers on Thursday after they caught and killed a tiger cub in a snare meant to catch a deer.
'Nearby tigers drawn to the scene of the fatally injured cub pounced on the men and killed 28-year-old David as the five others climbed a tree to safety.'
Resident of Simpang Kiri village learned of the men's fate because not only were they carrying mobile phones, they had also managed to get a signal, enabling them to call for help.
But as rescuers from the village neared the tree they saw David's partially eaten remains and four large tigers - and fled.
That left the men in the tree stranded and by today they had managed to cling on in the branches for four days.
Police said they were worried that exhaustion might cause one or more of them to fall, when they would be immediately attacked.
There were also concerns that the tigers might climb the tree to reach the men and while it is not known if the animals have already tried, the men would be at their mercy if that did happen.
But police said they had little choice but to plan the rescue carefully and that would take some time. The tigers would have to be shot with anaesthetising darts due to their endangered numbers.
Conservationists said they had no doubt that the tigers chased the men seeking revenge for killing the cub.
More than 100 Sumatran tigers are believed to roam the forests of the Gunung Leuser National Park.
But there are fears their numbers will dramatically drop as the rainforest shrinks and palm oil plantations take their place. Looking for food, tigers are more frequently entering villages and there have been a number of attacks on humans.
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