A tiger killed one man and mauled another at the Calcutta zoo yesterday when they tried to put a marigold garland around its neck in a New Year's greeting.

Prakesh Tiwari, the dead man, and Suresh Rai had been drinking before they bought the floral garlands and crossed the moat around the tiger's enclosure, authorities said.

"I was shocked to see the two young men weaving about in front of a tiger with garlands in their hands," said Rakesh Banerjee, who witnessed the attack that triggered panic and a near stampede in the zoo. The men, both in their twenties, were trying to put the garland on a thirteen year old male Royal Bengal tiger named "Shiva" after the Hindu god of destruction.

When Rai threw the garland around Shiva's neck, the tiger attacked him. His friend Tiwari intervened, kicking the tiger in the face. The tiger released Rai, and attacked and killed Tiwari.

"I saw it all; the tiger turned and jumped on the other young man and put its head on the man's neck, and within moments the man was apparently dead, his head dangling. "Banerjee said.

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November 1998