Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Big cat enthusiasts warned over 'lion selfies' after claims 'dangerous' photos taken after dark are a growing trend
The Gujarat forest department has spoken out on the issue after claims of a growing trend in after dark 'lion selfies' - in which people pose perilously close to the creatures - despite the practice being banned.
While forest guards patrol large swathes of the endangered Asiatic lions' habitat 24 hours a day, they don't have as much control if a lion strays onto a main road or into a village on the hunt for food, and locals alert tourists.
There has been an increase in the number of people posing for 'selfies' with Asiatic lions in the background, despite a warning that such moves are banned
Forest minister Ganpat Vasava told the Times of India: "Illegal shows or taking selfies in the night close to the big cat is impossible. Our department staff are on an alert and they are moving in the night to curb such activities. However, if a lion enters a village and kills a domestic animal, locals call in tourists."
The newspaper claimed that a bodybuilder from Vadodara had recently taken numerous photos and videos late at night with lions on a road, before posting them on Facebook.
In June this year, the Gujarat forest department issued an earlier warning over the growing number of wildlife lovers taking photos with lions in the background to post on social media.
Cricketer Ravindra Jadeja found himself in hot water after posing for photos with lions in the background earlier this year and was fined 20,000 rupees
It followed a spate of attacks in which villagers were killed or injured by the cats.
But just days later, Indian cricketer Ravindra Jadeja posted photos on social media showing him and his wife in front of a pride of lions during a safari in Gir forest.
An investigation was ordered and, in August, he was fined 20,000 rupees (£245) for taking the images.
There is no suggestion that this woman is doing anything wrong, but a growing number of photos showing wildlife lovers posing in front of the big cats have swept social media
"We had instituted a probe and called Jadeja for a statement," AP Singh, chief forest conservator in Gujarat state, told AFP at the time.
"But since he was not available, his father-in-law Hardevsinh Solanki gave a written statement on his behalf and paid the fine of 20,000 rupees."
In one of the photos on Instagram, the all-rounder is seen smiling and pointing at a pride of big cats resting behind him with a caption "family photo, having good time in Sasan (Gir)".
Gir wildlife sanctuary is a popular big cat safari destination and the only place where Asiatic lions remain in the wild
Another is a selfie of Jadeja and his wife as a lion looks on in the background.
Gir wildlife sanctuary is a popular big cat safari destination and the only place where Asiatic lions remain in the wild.
Asiatic lions, slightly smaller than their African cousins and with a fold of skin along their bellies, have been increasing in numbers in Gir, with 523 recorded in the latest census.