Woman are endowed with qualities of both courage and care; they can be bold and loving at the same time. This woman team of wildlife rescuers in India is one such group. They are credited with rescuing and protecting Asiatic Lions in the Gir Forests of India.
This all-woman team protects and rescues Asiatic lions in the Gir Forests of India.
The Gir Forests is the only surviving home of Asiatic lions in wilderness. This makes it one of the most important wildlife protected areas in the world. In 1965 the Indian government declared it a wildlife reserve to protect the Lions. Since then its has started serious rescue operations, and setting up an all-woman rescuers’ team is one of them.
Gir forests are the only surviving home of Asiatic lions in wilderness.
The forests are also home to various other wildlife species and the women team of rescuers protects them too.
Rasila Vadher was one of the first woman guards appointed by the forest department in 2007. According to a BBC report, the woman team was set-up in the same year when Narendra Modi, the then chief minister of Gujarat state and the current Prime Minister of India gave women a 33 percent quota in the forest jobs.
Ironically Rasila had accompanied her brother to a a forest guard recruitment center. While her brother couldn’t make it through a screening test, she ended up getting the job. She was assigned office work but “that was boring, so I thought let’s try something new,” she told BBC.
Raseela Wadher, the leader of the entire wildlife rescue team.
Rasila started working as a guard and her job included protecting and rescuing wild animals, but her male colleagues were apprehensive of her abilities. “Will we have to take care of the animals, or this woman?” they asked.
“I said let me try and we’ll see how it goes,” she said, exclaiming that she “loves a good challenge”. Today Rasila is one of the most respected members of the team. According to the report she has played a role in 900 rescues, 200 of lions and 425 of leopards.
This job is adventurous and requires a love for the wildlife.
Rasila’s life is full of adventure. She describes her most memorable experience to the BBC reporter:
“A leopard had fallen into a well, chasing a civet cat. The well had been newly-dug, it was dry and about 60-foot deep. We tried to tranquilise it, but we kept missing it because it was too far away. So I said I would go down in a cage and once the leopard is in range I would shoot the dart.”
The women’s team rescues wildlife from all kind of threats, including threat from poachers.
“I was lowered into the well in a small metal cage with a dart gun. The leopard was angry and growling. I had no experience and I was really afraid. But I fired the dart and hit the target. Once the animal was tranquilised, I captured it in a rope cage and it was hauled up,” she said.
Becoming a forest guard in a wildlife reserve is not easy. It requires strenuous training and willingness to be on a 24×7 job. Like Rasila, another woman rescuer, Kagada had to face her own set of challenges.
“First I had to clear the physical fitness test. Then I was taken on a 10km walk through the forest where I had to identify flora and fauna. That was followed by a written test and then an oral examination,” she told the BBC.
“I love my job, lots of children, especially girls, tell me they want to be like me,” she said.
There are a total of 48 woman wildlife rescuers.
Rasila and Kagada are two of the 48 woman guards who protect and rescue lions and leopards in the Gir Forests. Thanks to their efforts, today there are 523 lions and more than 300 leopards in the forests of Gir according to Gir National Park’s website.
The all-women team rescues about 600 animals annually, that means almost 2 animals a day! Without doubt the most favorite part of their adventurous job is to take care and nurture cubs and other baby animals till they’re old enough to be released into the forest.
The best and the most satisfying part of their jobs is that these women get is to rescue ‘cubs’ and nurture them till they grow big.
The all-woman team rescues 600 animals annually.
Discovery produced a four-part series on the lives of these woman forest guards called ‘The Lion Queens of India’. Watch the gripping video here: