28-year-old Rasila Vadher, finishing her graduation would have spelt time to look for a groom. But her mother’s encouragement to pursue a life outside the kitchen, landed her in the Gir Forest as a fearless forest guard and she now supports her mother and her brother.“I was always attracted to the khakhi vardi, I feel that it makes a good impression. I was interested in getting a government job and when I got to know of the opening at forest department, I applied for it. When I got the job, I was very excited as I didn’t know that a forest guard also gets to wear khakhi, I thought it was just for policemen,” Vadher tells us over the phone. Vadher never had any experience with animal rescue before, but had always been an animal lover and feels that when you love animals, you somehow, directly or indirectly, get involved in their care.When Vadher joined duty in 2007, her job involved sitting in a cabin and taking care of communications over the wireless. She hails from Bhanduri, a village about 42 km away from Sasan Gir. After appearing for further examinations, Vadher then became a part of the rescue and rehabilitation team of Gir’s forest department, the only female member of that team (there are other female forest guards).
“It must have been around May 18, 2008; we got a rescue call for a lioness who had become weak. We left to reach the spot by 4.30 pm. When we spotted the lioness, we decided against tranquilizing to capture her, as she was too weak. She had a porcupine’s spine stuck in her mouth. We first tried to set cattle as a bait which she tried to snatch. This also attracted a healthy lioness and a cub. So we decided to leave from the spot to try later. As soon as we started to leave, the lioness, started running towards us, thinking that we were leaving with her food. We finally managed to get into the car, and set the cage later in the night. At about 5.30 am the lioness entered the cage and we took her to the centre,” she tells us about her first experience.While Gir is known for lions, Vadher doesn’t just rescue lions, but several other animals sheltered in the forest, be it pythons, crocodiles or leopards. Vadher has been a part of more than 900 rescue operations till date, but she tells us the most difficult rescue missions are when the wild animals venture into human territory, which happens a lot. “During such missions, more than the animal, we are worried about the crowd that gathers to watch the situation,” she relays, before signing off.