Tuesday, July 17, 2007

In a Lion’s Last Refuge!

Field Notes From Author/Photographer
Mattias Klum


For three months I tried to track down lions in the dry teak forest of Gir. It was pretty hard to get close to them with the teak leaves crackling like cornflakes. So it was a wonderful moment when I finally got close to Asiatic lions, particularly one female and her cubs. After a couple of weeks they seemed to be somewhat habituated to me, which allowed me to get very near them.

There are no roads in Gir, which made it potentially more dangerous than working from a vehicle in someplace like Africa. On foot, I had nowhere to go if a lion came after me. To be able to share that closeness with one of the most endangered cat species on Earth in this little forest was quite moving.


It’s hard not to get sick working in remote parts of India, especially if you have a weak Western stomach. I had been very sick just six months before I got this assignment. I almost died from a typhoid-salmonella infection that led to acute blood poisoning. So for this trip I brought along Dr. Torbjörn Karlsson, an intensive care specialist and an expert in tropical medicine, to help keep all of us well.

We all had some minor problems with diarrhea and upset stomachs. But Dr. Karlsson really got sick. Once we returned home, it took him months to get back to normal.


One day I hid a remote camera just inches from a kill. The female lion got there and soon discovered the camouflaged camera. She probably even heard it. So, to make it smell like her, she went up to it and began scratching her back against it. She completely threw off the camera’s angle. And my composition went down the drain.

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