It was a close shave for a group of tourists in Karnataka after the vehicle in which they were travelling found itself between two elephants. The video that went viral on Monday morning begins with an elephant chasing a cart carrying tourists in a forested area. The elephant trumpets loudly as panic-stricken passengers shout in fear. The elephant runs after the cart briefly before giving up chase.
Seconds later, the camera pans to the front to show another elephant on the path in front of the vehicle. The driver of the vehicle continues to drive, revving up the engine, as the elephant runs ahead. A few seconds later, the elephant pauses, turns towards the vehicles, as panic-stricken voices of the tourists can be overheard. The elephant then turns around, continues to run forward along the path as the vehicle follows it. Just seconds before the elephant moves away from the path and the cart drives away to safety, a herd of four-five elephants can be seen grazing on the side.
Senior Forest Department officials in Karnataka said that the incident took place at the BR Hills range forest in Mysuru district, which is around 175 km from Bengaluru. While many questioned the official driving the vehicle for charging towards the tusker, some said it was the best decision taken to safeguard human lives.
This incident took place on Monday when tourists were on a safari tour organised by the Forest Department. Senior IFS officer and Chief Conservator of Forests Manoj Kumar said, “Recently a calf was born in the tourism zone, maybe the family is guarding the young one. On seeing the safari vehicle, two elephants must have started charging from front as well as back. The driver had no choice but to drive the vehicle ahead to save tourists.”
He added, “Following this incident, I have told the DCF (Deputy Conservator of Forests) to avoid that route until the elephants move away from that area along with the calf.”
While incidents of tourists getting this close with elephants are rare, conservationists have long demanded that the Forest Department prioritise conservation activities over tourism.