AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat forest department has ordered an inquiry into the alleged incident of cricketer Ravindra Jadeja taking 'selfie', which is not permitted, with lions at the Gir wildlife sanctuary at Sasan in Junagadh.
The alleged incident occurred just days after the forest department advised tourists and locals against taking 'selfie' with lions.
After some of the photos--where Jadeja along with his wife Reeva can be seen posing in front of lions-- went viral on social media platforms, Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF), Junagadh, A P Singh ordered an inquiry and asked the Sanctuary Superintendent to submit a report within two days.
"After the matter came to our knowledge yesterday, I have ordered an inquiry into the issue. I have asked the sanctuary superintendent to submit a report within next two-three days.
We will take action based on the report," said Singh.
Lion safari is one of the main attractions at Sasan, where forest department provides an open-hood jeep to tourists to watch lions inside the sanctuary. However, tourists are prohibited to alight from the vehicle during the safari.
In one of the photos, believed to be clicked on June 15, Jadeja and Reeva can be seen sitting on the ground so that a lion resting under a tree behind them can be captured. In another photo, Jadeja can be seen pointing at the lion. In some of the photos, forest staff was also seen standing with them near their vehicles.
"Such acts are strictly prohibited. We have to see why someone got down from their vehicle. Was it an emergency situation? We will also investigate the role of staff in allowing tourists to alight from vehicles. Action will be taken against staff if they are found guilty," said Singh.
On June 13, the forest department had issued an advisory against growing trend of people risking their life by taking selfie with lions in forest areas.
"Considering the increasing trend of selfies with lions, we have advised tourists and locals to refrain from doing so, and if they are caught doing so, they will be punished as per the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1971," said chief conservator of forest, wildlife crime, S P Sisodia.
"To take a selfie, you will have to go close to the lion, which is a dangerous act. Apart from being dangerous, it is also against legal provisions and can attract punitive action from the department. We are only reinterpreting the law looking at the latest trend," he said.
The census put the total number of big cats in the state at 523, which is a jump from 411 lions counted in 2010. They are found in Gir Wildlife Sanctuary which is a major tourist attraction.
The sanctuary remains close for tourists between June 16 and October 15 every year, as it is breeding season for many of the animals including the big cats.