Himanshu Kaushik | TNN | Updated: Oct 20, 2016, 15:19 ISTT
Santok Rabari (19) and her younger sister Maiya (18) live in Mendhawas, a hamlet in the Gir sanctuary near Tulsishyam in Amreli district. The sanctuary is the only abode of Asiatic lions. Ten years ago, their father Jehabhai suffered a paralytic stroke. Since then, the sisters have been taking their cattle to graze in the forest.
"When a lion approached their herd, Santok and Maiya stepped between the lion and cattle, holding up their sticks and looking squarely into the lion's eyes," said Mansukh Suvagya, the founder of Jal Kranti, an NGO which works for cow welfare and water conservation. "When the lion backtracked, the sisters pressed ahead, forcing the lion to bolt."
Suvagya said he learnt of the girls' courageous stand from beat guards and local residents. "We joined the girls for five days when they took their cattle into the forest," he said. "We noted their confident body language". Santok, a demure girl clad in salwar-kameez, said their understanding of the big cats helped them. "If you show a lion your back, it will attack you. If you stand firm, it will leave you alone," she said.
Top CommentBravo,the girls are real heroine. Our aashirwad to all of them.
Though Santok is modest, forest officials testify to her steeliness. "I have personally documented at least five incidents in which Santok has shooed away a lion," said the range forest officer of Liliya, P A Vithlani. The sisters were feted for their bravery on Monday by Jal Kranti.
Wildlife experts say that people who live in Gir have a way with the big cats. "Lions are generally afraid of humans," said Y V Zala, a member of the Wildlife Institute of India. "If not provoked, they will generally backtrack on coming face to face with a human." H S Singh, a lion expert and a member of the National Board for Wildlife, said: "Most local residents grow up with knowledge of lion behaviour."