She strides among the Lions like a part of the Pride. She leads the pack, protects them and she makes sure they are safe. The majesty of the forest, the personification of courage and caring. Meet Rasila Vadher, saying that she has the heart of a lion and the eye of the tiger would only be poetic justice. A young girl with big ambitions walked the path few would think to choose. Rasila became the first woman to be a part of the forest department of Gir National Park. Since then she has rescued over 1,100 wild animals including 400 leopards, 200 lions, crocodiles, pythons, and birds. 21-year-old Rasila completed her graduation in Hindi literature. Her story first came to light in 2013.
In March 2013, the panicked residents of Jalandhar village in Junagadh, Gujarat made a desperate phone call to Gir National Park. A leopard had fallen in an under-construction well with a depth of around 40-50 feet. Rasila Vadher jumped from her chair, packed her essentials, and left for Jalandhar along with her team. Once at the location, she got into the cage used for rescue operations. Her team lowered the cage inside the well and Rasila tranquilized the big cat with a dart gun. Following a patient wait to ensure that the Leopard was unconscious, she left the security of the cage and helped get the leopard out of the well and into safety. The leopard was tagged and later released into the Gir forest. The story rang out all through the news and on social media. And Rasila was constantly approached for Interviews and documentaries by different media outlets. That never deterred her from her true duty and she always answered the call from her pride. No matter how late or how early in the day if there was an animal to be rescued Rasila was prepared to help.
In the year 2008, Gujarat became the first Indian state to employ women in its forest department by creating a 33% quota for them. Dubbed the “Lion Queens of India ”, this all-women team grew and won accolades for their role in the protection of the wildlife at Gir. Rasila gained a lot of respect from her peers at the Forest Department. Another one of her rescues made the news when she rescued an injured lioness. In an interview, she recalled the incident and said, “People found an injured lioness in Dedakadi area of Bhavnagar district. Though she was unable to move, her attacking instincts were still intact. I was leading a team of five, and the operation lasted an entire night to capture the lioness. That operation was the turning point in my professional life.”
When asked if she was ever afraid of going into rescue, or facing these enormous animals she responded by saying, “Not at all, the only thing I was afraid of was being dropped from the operation because I was the only woman in the team at that time.” It is this mentality that made respect flood through for her and she was promoted from her post after just a few years of service.
She is now the head of Gir’s Rescue department. From having just one star on her uniform to now having three, talk about a journey starting at the bottom and going all the way to the top of the barrel. Rasila’s journey defines courage, dedication, hard work, and genuine love for animals.
With each of her calls, the challenge for Rasila was different, scaling in difficulty each rescue operation more delicate than the last one. But Rasila was unphased, determined on her objectives, and undeterred by her fame. For her, the Forest was her home and she would protect every member that resided in it. From the paws to hooves, to wings she healed all that was ailing. She became part of a revolution in the drive to save the big cat population in Gir Forest. She always believed that there was a bigger purpose to her life and seeing all the beautiful creatures she rescued being released back into the wild is truly what drove her.
When word of a three day old Lion cub that had been abandoned reached the ears of Rasila, there seemed little hope of a rescue taking place but on the other end of the tunnel, the Most heartwarming Pictures emerged of her feeding a lion cub through a bottle while it lay in her lap. The Lion cub had been rescued by Rasila and her team for which they received immense praise and were awarded for their bravery. Following the rescue, Rasila was in the spotlight in a documentary in which she explained that the Cub had grown so attached to her that it had begun to respond to her call. The animal could feel the nurturing nature of Rasila’s care that the cub began to think of her as it’s Mother. Her ability to communicate so fluently with these creatures in a tongue that is not native to any man makes her stand out. It is almost as though she was destined to be a part of Gir.
Rasila is an inspiration, and her love for these animals reins true in her heart. Her fight to make sure that every rescue call is answered makes us believe that she is blessed with the spirit of a tiger. After each rescue, Rasila smiles; Majestic only to blend back into the forest. Her invincible aura is always guarding the Gir forest even when she gets off shift.