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India bans the BBC from filming in tiger reserves

In an unprecedented move, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has been banned from filming in India’s tiger reserves for five years.

The ban was reportedly caused due to misrepresentation of facts in BBC South Asia Correspondent Justin Rowlatt’s documentary on Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve.

In his documentary titled Killing for Conservation, Rowlatt highlighted the Indian government’s "ruthless" anti-poaching policies. He claimed that Kaziranga has a "shoot-at-sight" order for poachers.

He details in his written account: "The way the park protects the animals is controversial. Its rangers have been given the kind of powers to shoot and kill normally only conferred on armed forces policing civil unrest."

He further says: "At one stage the park rangers were killing an average of two people every month – more than 20 people a year. Indeed, in 2015 more people were shot dead by park guards than rhinos were killed by poachers."

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) found BBC’s depiction "grossly erroneous" and called for a mandatory preview of the documentary at the Environment Ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs.

When BBC failed to submit the documentary, the NTCA announced its ban. It has now asked chief wildlife wardens of all tiger range states and field directors of tiger reserves to disallow any filming permission to the BBC until 2022.

Before the ban, the Environment Ministry had recommended blacklisting the television station. “They [BBC] have misrepresented facts and selectively over-dramatized interviews and old footage. They had a different agenda fueled by certain foreign NGOs and local elements opposed to conservation," it had said.

Kaziranga National Park, set up a century ago in India’s far eastern state of Assam, is home to two-thirds of the planet’s one-horned rhinos (2,400 of them). It is also a UNESCO world heritage site and northeast India’s principal tourist attraction with annual footfalls of 170,000.

Last year, William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visited the park.

Image: Silverhub/REX/Shutterstock

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge feed baby rhinos and elephants at Kaziranga National Park in April, 2016.

And David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II was filmed here too.

However, poaching of wild animals has been a concern in the area as well as in the rest of India. It is more rampant than ever, say reports. In Kaziranga, cops successfully chased down two poachers with the help of selfie recently.

Even Rowlatt admitted that the park "is an incredible story of conservation success".

But that wasn’t enough to evade the ban, sadly.

Mashable has reached out to the BBC for comment.