One of the most recognized word or act in popular culture today is ‘selfie’. Mobile phones endorse it, celebrities add to the frenzy and the masses lap it up. But the obsession with clicking a brilliant selfie has proved fatal in several cases.
In a recent case, a 50-year-old man from Odisha, Ashok Bharti, was trampled to death by a wild elephant after he tried to pose for a photo with the animal.
However, these incidents has had no effect on the tourists at Karnataka’s Bandipur National Park, where those driving through the forests along the National Highway 181 en route to Ooty, or NH 766 to Sultan Bathery stop midway in violation of the law to pose for a selfie with wild animals in the backdrop.
“The issue has reached alarming proportions in Bandipur where signages warning people against stopping is ignored by the tourists even in the core tiger area or elephant-crossing zones,” Santosh, a wildlife activist, told to the Hindu.
What many do not realize, or probably do not care, is that Bandipur is a tiger reserve. And so the motorists may be stalked and even killed by a tiger or a leopard lurking in the greens.
Bandipur forest has mobile patrolling to curb mischievous elements from violating the law. There are two mobile patrolling units one of which operates from Moolehole Gate bordering Kerala and are deployed on a full-time basis. The other unit from Bandipur is deployed during peak traffic hour, according to Assistant Conservator of Forests Anthony Mariappa.
He told The Hindu that people wait for the mobile unit to pass them and then stop to take selfies. “Many have been caught red-handed, fined, and cautioned. But youngsters coming in group are more prone to this behaviour than individuals and families,” he added.
They continue to do so although boards at the entry point of the forest and at strategic locations within the forest warn motorists and tourists of the consequences of such dangerous behavior.
Several wildlife sanctuaries and parks across the world have been facing similar problems.
The forest department of Gujarat is advising tourists and locals against taking selfies with lions at the Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, after coming across several instances in which villagers were killed or injured by lions.
They have put up no-selfie zone boards across the protected sanctuary and violation of the rule is punishable under India’s wildlife protection act.
In 2015 Russia’s Interior Ministry launched a campaign warning avid mobile phone snappers about the danger of, among other things, posing for a selfie with a lion after a bunch of selfie-related deaths were reported.
In the USA, officials of Yellowstone National Park issued warnings after selfie takers were gored while clicking pictures with bisons.
And while these parks have huge boards with warnings about the dangers of taking selfies with wild animals, people conveniently ignore them and end up losing their lives in exchange for a few worthless ‘likes’ on social media.