Video footage of the horrific incident caught on mobile phone cameras by visitors showed that Mohan, the seven-year- old tiger, was initially clueless when he found the youth in his enclosure and both of them stood face to face for several minutes.

The incident also brought to the fore the lack of quick response mechanism in the zoo to rescue a person from such a situation by tranquilising the animal or by any other method.

Maqsood, a resident of Anand Parbat area with a history of mental illness, was scrounging himself against a wall as the wild cat looked menacingly at him from close quarters.

There were various accounts of how Maqsood fell into the tiger's enclosure. Some eyewitnesses claimed that he was leaning against the two-feet wall of the enclosure when he slipped into it.

Zoo officials and some other eyewitnesses said he crossed the iron fence preceding a brick wall and jumped into the enclosure.

"There is a stand-off barrier before the wall of the enclosure. He had crossed it at least two-three times and was
repeatedly warned by the security guard stationed there.

Meanwhile, some schoolchildren reached the spot and the guard's attention was diverted when he jumped in and landed 18 feet below in the dry moat," National Zoological Park curator R A Khan said.

The incident, the first of its kind in the zoo's history, took place around 1 PM.

Some eyewitnesses claimed security guards at the zoo could do nothing to help the youth when he was being dragged away by the tiger as they did not have tranquiliser guns.

"The youth was sitting before the tiger in such a position like he was pleading to him to spare his life and the tiger patted him on his face several times with his paws," said one of the eyewitnesses.

It was only when the spectators started shouting in order to divert the tiger's attention and the security guards were beating his cage in the arena signaling him to return in it when the tiger turned violent, caught the youth by his neck and dragged him away.

"People made noise by shouting and screaming in order to divert the tiger's attention, but I did not see anyone
throwing stones at the animal.

"The tiger kept hitting the man with his paws for almost 15 minutes while the man was sitting scared in front of him.

The tiger then caught hold of his neck and dragged the man through the whole arena until he was dead," said Himanshu, an eyewitness who made a PCR call about the incident.

The tiger did not feed on the youth after killing him.

Maqsood's father told police that his soon used to consume some medicines for mental illness around two years ago and had also been consuming "bhang". Maqsood was a school dropout and used to work in a factory.

"He used to leave home without telling his family at many times. Today also he had reached the zoo alone," said a police official.

A police team led by DCP South-East Mandeep Randhawa inspected the spot. A zoo ticket was found in the victim's pocket which confirmed that he was a visitor.

The body was moved for postmortem at 4 PM.

Police said that they have registered a case of negligence. However, it would be a matter of investigation to find whose negligence it was.

Spectators claimed that zoo authorities did nothing to save the man and security guards just had wooden sticks with them.

Zoo officials, however, refuted the claims and maintained that they had very little time to respond.

"The security guards had wireless sets through which they informed us and I rushed to the spot. They also had whistles and sticks but there is very little that we can do before a wild animal if a man jumps before it.

"We have tranquilizer guns at the zoo hospital but they are licensed weapons and cannot be given to guards. Before they could be brought it was all over. We had also called for crackers but the tiger returned into his cage on his own," said Khan.

Reacting to accusations that the height of the wall was not adequate, zoo director Amitabh Agnihotri in his statement said that the enclosures of the National Zoological Park have been designed according to the standards laid down by the Central Zoo Authority.

"All the enclosures of National Zoological Park are absolutely safe. No visitor can reach the moat wall of the enclosure without crossing the stand-off barrier. This visitor crossed the stand-off barrier and ultimately jumped into the enclosure which led to his death by tiger," Agnihotri said.

According to the statement, Maqsood crosed the stand-off barrier of the white tiger enclosure in Beat No. 8 and jumped into the enclosure.

Guard Praveen, who was posted at the enclosure sounded the alarm and collected his supervisor and other staff of the zoo by sending wireless SOS messages, it said.

Praveen along with other staff of the zoo tried to divert the attention of the tiger from the visitor but to no avail, it said, adding the tiger mauled the visitor who died on the spot. The ambulance was called and police were infomred immediately.

Officials also argued that Delhi zoo is an open zoo and if height of the wall is increased the spectators, especially children will not be able to see the animals. They also said that the tiger cannot jump out of its moat and is completely safe in it.

Vijay, the seven-year-old white tiger was born in Delhi Zoo on July 21, 2007 and had not shown any aggressive behaviour in the past.

"He was born in the Delhi Zoo. His father was Laxman and Yamuna was his mother. We have six white tigers in our zoo which include four tigresses. Three each are kept in different enclosures and are released in the moat at different times.

Vijay has two tigresses, Pattu and Veena in his enclosure," said Khan.

Vijay was released in the enclosure in morning shift and was supposed to stay between 9:30 AM and 1:00 PM when the incident took place. The white tiger weighs around 200 kg and eats 10 kg buffalo meat everyday, Zoo officials informed.

Khan said that Vijay has been kept separately after the incident and zoo doctors are examining him. Officials from Animal Welfare Board also reached the zoo premises to look into the case.

The space where the white tiger stays comprises of a moat, a natural space for the animal to roam around and a concrete enclosure.

When a tiger is not released in its moat it can roam around in its natural enclosure.

The National Zoological Park, located in the centre of the capital and one of the oldest in the country, is spread over 176 acres is home to about 1,556 different birds and animals. Delhi Zoo sees footfalls of 5,000 to 6,000 on weekdays and 12,000 to 13,000 on weekends.

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