Indian cricketer Ravindra Jadeja fined $400 for lion selfies

Jadeja was fined for photos like this one posted to Instagram.
Jadeja was fined for photos like this one posted to Instagram.PHOTO: INSTAGRAM

AHMEDABAD, India (AFP) - Indian cricketer Ravindra Jadeja has been fined US$300 (S$400) for taking selfies with endangered Asiatic lions in the country's west despite a ban on such photos, a senior forest official said on Wednesday (Aug 10).

Officials had ordered an investigation in June after photos of Jadeja posing in front of a pride of lions during a safari in Gir forest went viral on social media.

"We had instituted a probe and called Jadeja for a statement," A.P. Singh, chief forest conservator in Gujarat state, told AFP.

"But since he was not available, his father-in-law Hardevsinh Solanki gave a written statement on his behalf and paid the fine of 20,000 rupees ($400)," he said.

In one of the photos on Instagram, the all-rounder is seen smiling and pointing at a pride of big cats resting behind him with a caption "family photo, having good time in Sasan (Gir)".

Another is a selfie of Jadeja and his wife as a lion looks on in the background.

Gir wildlife sanctuary is a popular big cat safari destination and the only place where 523 Asiatic lions remain in the wild, according to the latest census.

The 27-year-old is currently on tour with the Indian team in the West Indies.

The photos were taken just days after the Gujarat forestry department advised tourists and locals against taking selfies with lions, following a spate of attacks in which villagers were killed or injured by the cats.

In recent years India has had a number of selfie-related deaths, forcing the federal tourism ministry to issue an advisory on creating "no selfie zones" across the country.

The ministry asked state governments to identify dangerous spots popular with tourists and warn them against risking their lives for the best shot.

"It is advised that you (states) may put up proper signages marking all such areas and zones as selfie danger zones," the ministry note said on Monday.

The order also suggested barricading such sites and deploying police to prevent any mishaps.

Several media reports have put the number of selfie- related deaths in India at 54 since 2014.

In May a teenage boy accidently shot himself in the head while taking a selfie, while a month later seven people drowned in the Ganges river while taking a group selfie.