Cyclone Tauktae made landfall along Gujarat’s coastal region including Saurashtra on May 17 around 20 km northeast of Diu (66 km away from Gir Forest), reported Down to Earth. It left a trail of destruction in the other four states on the country’s western coast. In the backdrop of this, a video of a pride of lions crossing a dam has been circulated by several government officials with the claim that the pride was spotted in Gir Forest.
Gujarat’s Additional Chief Secretary (Forest & Environment Dept) Dr Rajiv Kumar Gupta tweeted the video and wrote, “Lions are completely safe in Gir landscape in the aftermath of #Tauktecyclone. @GujForestDept Field staff has kept constant monitoring of lion movement. A rare video of a Pride in Akolvadi range Gir West crossing a waterway safely, being shared.” This gained close to one lakh views. Gupta’s tweet was quote-tweeted by the Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change Prakash Javadekar.
Similarly, Odisha-based Indian Forest Services officer Susanta Nanda also tweeted the video.
Subsequently, several media outlets amplified the clip, including Prasar Bharati News Services, India Today, One India, and Odisha TV. India Today Foreign Affairs Editor Geeta Mohan tweeted an India Today article on the same topic.
VIDEO FROM SOUTH AFRICA
The video in question was uploaded by Mala Mala Game Reserve, a South Africa-based safari company, on Facebook and Instagram in February. Neither is the clip related to Cyclone Tauktae nor is it from Gujarat’s Gir forest.
MalaMala Game Reserve wrote on Instagram, “The first of the big sightings was a pride of lions (Nkuhuma pride). We witnessed them stalk a herd of impalas, but the hunt was foiled by some cubs moving through an open area which gave the lions’ presence away.”
Wildlife safari company Legend Safaris had also uploaded the video on its Instagram page on February 13.
Gujarat’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) & Chief Wildlife Warden Shyamal Tikadar later issued an apology stating that the video was sent to him by an eminent “wildlife enthusiast”. He also wrote, “The veracity of the clip could not be ascertained as the staff was involved in massive tracking and rescue operations.” While he said that the video caused confusion, the apology does not explicitly state it is not from India.
It is regretted that a wrong video was posted along with statement of Lion safety in Gir landscape.PCCF(Wild Life)Sh Shyamal Tikadar has apologised for his lapse & indiscretion.Inconvenience &confusion caused is sincerely regretted with an assurance for double caution in future. pic.twitter.com/ibs6n31LCU
— Dr Rajiv Kumar Gupta (@drrajivguptaias) May 21, 2021
A video of a pride of lions from South Africa-based MalaMala Game Reserve was therefore shared by multiple forest department officials and media outlets with the false claim that the video shows the lions safe in Gujarat’s Gir forest after Cyclone Tauktae struck the west coast.