By Taniya Dutta
This is the appalling moment a lion couple and their cubs were chased by four bikers in India.
The lions had moved outside the protected area of the dry forest of famous Gir sanctuary in Gujarat in western India when the bikers had spotted them.
They chased the wild cats on bikes as the poor animals watched the men stunned.
One of the pillion riders shot the whole incident in a 34-second long video which later was widely shared in social media.
The baffling video begins with two motorists going off the track, roaring their bike horns aloud to tease the lions who desperately try to run as far as possible into the forest.
At one point, the shocked lioness moves from her position and tries to sit at a far distance but the men do not let her relax, rather they stop the bike just inches away from her, visibly scaring the animal.
The bikers then start criss-crossing the muddy road chasing the wild cats as the they frantically run to put space between them and the vehicles in an open field.
One man in blue shorts is then seen making a circle and turning back his bike to chase two lionesses and cubs who had fallen behind.
Although none of the bikers could be properly seen in the video, one of them is heard asking another in local language to chase the lion cub, but at the end another biker in yellow shorts is heard trying to restrain others and asking them to stop.
After the video went viral, the state forest department launched an investigation and arrested one man in early hours of Thursday.
Anirudh Pratap Singh, Chief Conservator of Forest, Junagadh Wildlife Circle, said: “We are yet to arrest the other three men. It is hard to say why these men chased the animals and how did they reach their habitat.
“We cannot reveal the identity of the man as it is too early and investigation is still on.
“We zeroed in on the accused after we found the registration number of the bike.
“We are yet to know the reason why the men chased the lions. We do not know yet if it was for fun or if they were scared. We can only ascertain the reason once all the men are arrested.”
Singh said no animals were hurt in the incident.
Once the investigation is complete and all men are arrested, the case would be filed under sections of Wildlife Act and presented at the court.
Singh said: “We will file the charge sheet against the men after finding the investigation. The men can be sentenced to seven years imprisonment-the maximum punishment under Wildlife Act for such cases.”
Gir has around 400 Asiatic lions. But relentless development – roads through the forest in the 1,400- wildlife sanctuary, expanding villages and illegal mining – is forcing animal-human proximity.