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Tourists get big cat scare at Bannerghatta

Bengaluru: Two lions followed a safari vehicle as it slowed down for the tourists to have a closer look at the big cats, at 3.45pm on Monday in Bannerghata Biological Park, according to sources.

If 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 (Innova vehicle no: KA 51 C 1633), alarming the tourists.

The panic-stricken tourists complained to the Park officials and said there were no safety measures and going around the safari in such a vehicle with no grills at the back was very scary.

This is the third time in the last few months that captive lions have targeted a safari vehicle carrying tourists at the Lion Safari in the Park. The other two incidents happened in September and December last year.

A video grab of the latest incident where the two lions followed was taken from another safari vehicle and shows clearly how the vehicle slowed down to take a closer peek at the lions.

Now, who is to be blamed – the driver or the tourists — ask experts. Was the driver responsible for not following rules as he is expected to maintain a constant speed and not stop or slow down anywhere inside the safari, thereby attracting the attention of the lions? Or, perhaps the tourists who may have put pressure on the driver to get a closer look at the lions and unnecessarily risk their lives?

Vehicle driver Ramesh has been removed as there had been repeated complaints against him for stopping the vehicle and allowing the tourists to have a closer look at the majestic big cats.

BBP Executive Director Santosh Kumar said, “Ramesh was a good and safe driver but 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.”

Asked if there is a need to change from the existing fleet of smaller and low-ground clearance vehicles to bigger and safer versions, he said they are mulling over the issue and feel it is better to shift to buses.

“Currently, we have eight vehicles that include one Innova car and all of them have side grills on their small windows. However, there are no grills on the back windows to give maneuverability and flexibility to the driver. So we feel it is better to shift to 30-seater buses that will be safer for the tourists,” he said.

In the long run, one has to look at other aspects too like — how safe it is for the big cats too as they too are disturbed by the constant movement of the safari vehicles.

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