Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Queens in lion kingdom.

    Risking lives: For the king of the jungle
  • Updated: September 27, 2015 19:22 IST

    Risking lives: For the king of the jungle

Watch the life of a large team of women forest guards unfold on their daily missions at Gir National Park, in The Lion Queens of India.

While many of us the world over shared and looked at pictures on social media of lions that died in the Gir National Park in Gujarat this July in massive floods, and then of the cute cubs that did survive, Rasila P. Vadher and her team was in the midst of all the mayhem.
The woman in charge of the Rescue Team at the national park says it took them a while to come to terms with the fact that the sudden release of dam waters meant that lions, that can usually swim were taken aback by the force of water, hit trees, and died. Gir, one of India’s oldest national parks, is the only home to the largest population of Asiatic lions in the world – about 523 of them. Finally they discovered 10 of them had died in the floods.
The 31 year old forest guard, Rasila, along with fellow women forest guards, has carried out over 600 rescue missions last year – perhaps amongst the highest number in any wildlife park in the world. They are the subject of a new TV series The Lion Queens of India.
“I have seen so much struggle in my life that I know no fear,” says Rasila in a telephonic interview. “We all have to die one day anyway. Moreover, animals are more wafadaar than humans. They only attack us if we make a mistake.”
These women risk their lives every day to rescue vulnerable lions, heal defenceless cubs, reduce human-animal conflict and assist villagers who face accidental animal attacks. The four-part series brings alive some of the most daring wildlife action sequences. From rescuing a lion stuck in an open well, healing a badly injured lioness with three little cubs in the middle of the night, retrieving a wayward leopard from a farmer’s house, or catching and releasing a deadly Russell’s viper — all part of their daily job!
The rescue team is headed by Raj Sandeep, Deputy Conservator of Forests (Junagadh Forest Division); assisted by Trupti A. Joshi, In-charge Range Officer, and Rasila. A total of 48 women serve in the forest department at Gir.
Rasila, says she was the first woman in India to hold such a post, and many women have now followed suit, filling the ranks in Gir. “I stand among the men, like a man. I come from a middle-class family where I’m the oldest child. My father died very early and I thought taking a government job will help me care for my mother and brother. I was a Hindi graduate and knew nothing of forests, and hadn’t even seen a lion till I joined the job. Since I was involved in a lot of sports, I had the advantage of being physically fit.” She got married a year ago.
“We are on duty 24 hours. We have to rush even at 3 a.m. if we have an emergency,” says Rasila. But on any given day, life begins at about 9 a.m. at the Rescue Centre where animals at the shelter are monitored for their health, cleaning up, injury treatment. “We are involved in veterinary work as well as helping with putting in microchips. The rescue centre at various points in time has housed lions, sambhar, chital, pythons, crocodiles and birds.” Her most challenging rescue till date has been in 2011 when she had to pull out a leopard from a well at 12.30 in the night. Battling a scared leopard that was chewing of the ladder lowered for its rescue, the mob of public and media at the site and the constraints of it being a night-time operation, they succeeded in their rescue after a three-hour struggle.
The show premieres on September 28 and October 5 at 9 p.m. on Discovery Channel.

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