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Meeting the Asiatic Lions of Gir Forest

By Rudolph.A.Furtado (Mumbai, India).

I have been on a four day "Lion Safari Camp" with B.N.H.S (Bombay Natural History Society) tour group  between Wednesday (16-5-2012) to Saturday (19-5-2012) to the Gir forests of Gujarat in India.

The Gir Forest is home to the last species of the Asiatic lion in the world numbering only about 400 approx. It is situated in the north-west of India (see map).


We visited the "Gir National Park" on 5 different occasions on 3 different days, lucky to spot the rare elusive lion. On the last day we saw an entire pride of 6 lions, sitting across our jeep trek road, approx 50 meters away from us. It was a life scene straight out of a "National Geographic Documentary".
Pride of lions walking in a single file
A young lion spotted in the undergrowth bushes of Gir Forest
The pride sighted on Friday (18-5-2012). A rare situation
Doesn't cat Matata my Persian cat resemble a miniature lion?

What baffled and surprised me was the behaviour of these totally wild lions towards the Guards (Wild-Life rangers) of the park. When a lion was spotted in the forest undergrowth by a guard  the tourist jeeps were allowed to approach closer to the lion for photography and viewing. We spotted a lion on all 3 different days of a 3 hour safari ride inside the jungle and every time a forest ranger kept watch on the tourists and the lion.

These guards were familiar to the lions akin to our house-hold cats, hence allowed the guards to approach them on foot and a ordinary wooden baton within a 50 meters distance.

Remember, these are genuine wild forest lions that prey on other jungle species for survival including the nomadic Maldhari's tribal cattle. Yet these same lions have never ever attacked a forest ranger, very strange and also demonstrates that all wild species are basically scared of humans.

On the last day we spotted a pride of 6 lions  relaxing on a mound, later walking in a file alongside the tourist road. The pride was led by a matriarch lioness and there were 3 cubs, a juvenile male lion and another mature lioness.

They resembled a mother cat with her kittens, reminding me of my own cats back home in Mumbai. For the first time in my life I got to observe natural wild lions and realized that our small house-hold cats mimic the behaviour of the "Big Cats".

Read my blog " The Last Asiatic Lion in Gir Forest":-

http://delhionasolobackpackersbudgettour.blogspot.in/

Rudolph.A.Furtado

Comments

Michael Broad said…
Hi Rudolph, I envy you your chance to see these rare and famous lions. The forest looks very dry. I guess that is typical lion territory. Tigers like it wetter with more jungle!

Matata has a similar but more refined coat colour as a lion and she looks quite fierce sometimes:) Her face is strong looking as well so, yes, she is like a lion and she is fearless too. Her exploits are famous.

I am not sure she is Persian. More a wild cat hybrid :)
Hello Michael,
Thanks a lot for the review of my visit to the Gir National forest in India. The map you have inserted showing the habitat of the African and Asian lion is an excellent simple portrayal of the importance of preserving the last habitat of the Asiatic lion on Planet Earth.To correct you, "Matata" is a 3 year old male traditional Persian cat and not female whom i bred in my own house, he being the freak odd coloured kitten in a litter of 6 kittens by Queen cat Matahari. Also a big thanks to my co-tour partner Mr Sudhir.Bhakta for allowing me to use these beautiful lion photos clicked from his personal camera.We travelled in the same "Safari Jeep" on all the 5 "Jungle safari's" and hence we saw the same wild-life including the majestic pride of lions.My sincere advice to any tourist visiting India and if a nature lover, the a small tour to the Gir forests in Gujarat is a mandatory requirement for seeing the last Asiatic lions in its natural forest home.

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