No selfie control is a very real phenomenon in modern-day India.

After a very bizarre incident in 2017 when a prominent Indian cricketer and his wife posed in front of a pride of Asiatic lions in Gujarat’s Gir National Park, other Indian states have seen a rise in risky behaviour by tourists, most involving cell phones and/or selfie sticks.

Irresponsible selfie-takers pose with a wild tusker in Munnar, Kerala (Times of India 2018)

But now, if you do take a selfie in wildlife reserves or national parks in the south Indian state of Karnataka, you may very well find yourself taking your next selfie with a dutiful forest officer sharing screen space and a far lighter wallet in hand.

In a bid to increase both human and wildlife safety in wildlife reserves across the state, the Karnataka forest department has issued a warning to all travelers that people caught taking selfies in forest boundaries will be heavily fined. There has been an increasing number of cases of travelers stopping private vehicles close to endemic wildlife to capture the animals in the frame of the selfie. This can irritate the animal, leading to injury or potentially death to both humans and wildlife. Bandipur National Park, on the border of Karnataka and Kerala (to the south), has seen a rise in cases of “no selfie control,” with high densities of people stopping to take selfies with wildlife on the edges of the forest road. Now, a fine of Rs. 1000 per offense will be issued to anyone caught taking a selfie in Karnataka’s protected areas.

Cartoon courtesy of Conservation India

This action on the behalf of the Karnataka forest department is in accordance with the state’s strong presence on India’s conservation roadmap. Karnataka is home to some of the largest populations of endemic wildlife, including >6000 Asian elephants and >400 tigers (around 12% of the global tiger population), along with other rare species such as the Asiatic wild dog (dhole), leopard, lion-tailed macaque, Malabar large spotted civet (critically endangered, with fewer than 250 mature individuals estimated in the world), and blackbuck. Over 20% of the state is under forest cover, and the state boasts of 5 national parks and 18 wildlife sanctuaries and reserves. The state also falls into the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot, home to >350 globally-threatened species and a designated Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA).

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Our generation’s obsession with selfies is an example of the extent to which the technology addiction has spread. It is time we took a step back and examined our lack of control, especially as it affects other people and wildlife. Other states in India need to follow Karnataka’s model and enforce that protected areas are marked as no-selfie zones.


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