To no one’s surprise, the video of the gruesome tiger attack in the Delhi Zoo on Tuesday went viral immediately. There is always something captivating about the sight of a person caught in a situation seemingly beyond human control. That it happened with so many people all around surely added to our fascination.

Commentators have spoken about how awful Indian zoos are and, moreover, how our behaviour in these environments usually reflects terribly on us. Yet, because it seems so plausible, the question that ran in the heads of many watching the video (and then expressed on social networks or around water coolers) was but natural: what would I have done in that situation?

What are you supposed to do if you come face-to-face with a tiger?

“Well, you don’t do anything,” writes Kamlesh Singh, in a thoughtful piece about the relationship between an increasingly urbanised, gentrified man and nature. “It’s the tiger that decides.”

Indeed, in this situation, there was almost nothing that could be done, said Dharmendra Khandal, a conservation biologist who works with Tiger Watch. “When you have an ordinary person, with no experience, in a situation like this, with a wall around, there’s almost nothing you can do,” Khandal said. “This situation is completely in the tiger’s hands.”

That said, Khandal still had a few recommendations.

Make yourself large: When faced with the tiger, the boy simply folded his palms in a classic submissive posture. With an animal of this sort, though, that’s the wrong move to make. Instead, he ought to have at least stood up and made himself appear big.

“You can see the animal spending some time examining him, trying to figure out if this is food or an enemy or a plaything,” Khandal said. “It’s not sure exactly what it is dealing with, so if he had made an impression right away, the tiger might have been a little more wary. I would have stood up taller than the animal and tried to look bigger.”

Maintain eye contact: This is one of the suggestions recommended by most who have had to deal with animals like these in the wild. Don’t turn your back on the animal, for certain. “According to this theory, if you turn your gaze away, you’re gone,” Singh writes.

Use whatever you have: In this case, the young man didn’t have any possible attack tools on hand. However, if you encounter a tiger in the wild, anything that can function as a weapon can be useful. In addition to making yourself look large rather than submissive, this can function as a way of ensuring the animal is a little afraid.

“I’ve seen forest guards get away from wild tigers, with their feet in its jaws, just by taking a lathi and continually beating the cat,” Khandal said.

What the others should have done: In an unlikely situation like this, it’s not only the actions of the person directly facing the tiger that are important. The reaction of the audience and people around also matters. In this case, reports suggested that the tiger trainer was attempting to convince the cat to move, while people were hooting and throwing stones, which agitated the animal.

Khandal said that the surest thing would have been a distraction. “I would have found something, ideally just taken people’s clothes and set them on fire and then thrown them into the enclosure. Definitely, I would have thrown something in such a way that the animal was scared away.”

At the end of the day, though, it’s rarely about what you do in a situation like this than what you do before. “Even experienced forest guards will not go into the jungle without proper gear,” Khandal said. “Because they know that, once an attack happens, there is almost nothing that can be done. Instead, you have to focus on prevention and ensuring a situation like this doesn’t develop in the first place.”