BENGALURU: Kannada actor Dhanveer on Friday kicked up a storm after some videos of his forest visit went viral — one of him chasing a tiger during a night safari in Bandipur Tiger Reserve (BTR) and another of him sitting atop a camp elephant.Dhanveer is seen seated in the range forest officer's jeep, shooting a video of the fleeing tiger. Flashlights and high-beam lights are on while tracking and chasing the animal. The photograph was taken at 7.30pm, which is beyond the safari timing.
In the second video, Dhanveer is seen climbing the back of a camp elephant to sit on its neck, without any protection. Forest officials point out that these are violations under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and the actor and others seated in the jeep, including the driver and RFO, should be booked. Officials said Dhanveer was in Karigowdanakatte, Nanganapura Kere in BTR, in a Mahindra Bolero belonging to Bandipur RFO Hanumantharaju. He was also seen at Balle Elephant Camp in Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, though he claimed he was at Sakrebailu camp.
In his defence, Dhanveer said: "I went for the safari at 4.30pm and as I was coming out at 6.30pm, I saw the tiger at 6.31 pm. No flashlights were used, they were the headlights of the jeep. It was dark because we were inside the forest. In case of the elephant, I was at Sakrebailu and the staffers allowed me to sit on the animal."Conservationists are questioning why the actor was allowed on a night safari, and point out that this is not the first time prominent people have broken the rules.
"There have been many instances of sons of politicians, who have been members of the State Wildlife Board, going on such rides. This means that those with power and money can break the law. Going by the actor's version, he photographed the animal at 6.31 pm in the safari zone, so the driver cruising from the forest to the pick-up point in 15 minutes itself is a violation as he exceeded the speed limit," say conservationists.
Forest officials are also not convinced. BTR Director T Balachandra told TNIE, "Safari timings are from 3.30pm to 5.30pm, and safari vehicles have to be back at the checkpoints by 6.30pm. We have heard Dhanveer's statement, but are not satisfied, and a thorough inquiry is being held. Night safari is not permitted and the officials are answerable."
Another version doing the rounds is that the RFO's brother took the actor on a night safari. Forest minister Anand Singh gave his assurance that stern action would be taken. "Nobody has the right to break the rules. An example needs to be set for people and officials, and stern action will be taken against the violators," he said.