In at least the third such incident in the past few months, a lion leapt at a safari vehicle at the Bannerghatta Biological Park in Bengaluru. Two lions followed a safari vehicle as it slowed down for tourists to have a closer look on Monday around 3 00pm.
A video of the incident surfaced in the media, in which it can be seen that one lion came around the vehicle and scared the tourists.
While one lion came around the vehicle and followed, the other took a clean swipe and made attempts to climb on to the rear portion of the vehicle alarming the tourists.
The panicked tourists then complained to park officials and said that there were no safety measures implemented in the safari as the vehicle had no grills.
This is the third time in the last few months that the captive lions have targeted the safari vehicle. Such incidents were reported in September and December 2016 and complaints were voiced against the same driver.
A video shot by TNM's Dhanya Rajendran in September 2016 also showed two lions leaping at the same Innova and following it for a short distance.
Santhosh Kumar, Executive Director of the Bannerghatta National Park had told TNM in September, “I got a complaint about the Innova last week too. When I enquired I was told that this excites tourists and some of them are demanding for the car.”
An enquiry had found that drivers of two cars (Innova and a Xylo) were reversing the car in a particular way and the screeching of tyres irritated the big cats.
But from the latest video, it is obvious that he has not taken any such action, but allowed the car and driver to continue.
And in a reaction that has become routine and farcical, Santosh Kumar said on Wednesday once again that he would remove the vehicle from the Safari and sack the driver.
He said, “It was laxity on behalf of the driver. He had overlooked safety rules and there had been complaints against him. Despite warnings, he had not adhered to safety measures. There are strict instructions not to stop the vehicle inside the Lion Safari. No closer look of big cats is allowed.”
So why was this action not taken earlier? He has no clear answer.
"We installed grills on the vehicle. The park currently has eight vehicles and grills were installed on the windows of all vehicles, however, the vehicles do not have grills at the back as it would be an impediment for the driver to manoeuver the vehicle. Hence the management is planning to shift to 30-seater buses, which will be safer," he now claims.
It is not just about safety of tourists, but about the stress that the animals are forced to go through.
“It isn’t normal if an animal targets the same vehicle or any vehicles repeatedly. Animals cannot distinguish colors and so they go by shapes. If that’s the case, then the park authorities should take this into account and try study what’s disturbing the animals. They should take corrective measures,” Sanjay Gubbi, conservationist and wildlife expert had told TNM in September.
But then, Bannerghata Park authorities couldn't care less.