The forest was incredible.... it looked so vibrant and lush that it was hard to believe we were in one of India’s most drought prone regions. Almost immediately, the driver was pointing to the road, and in the dust were tracks that resembled the imprints of a tiger “Big lion”, he said and held his hands around his head to simulate a mane.
I was most pleasantly surprised with Gir. Never having been there before, I really did not know what to expect, but stories of the ‘lion shows’ had somehow robbed Gir of any glamour. Till a couple of years ago, these miniature circus shows where the lions were baited and were then watched by hordes of people, had the overtones of a poor joke. The practice was discontinued a couple of years
We were 35 kilometres from Sasan, and we wearily headed back. As is usually the case with big cats,
A lion at Gir—staring at us with drooping eyes we saw the lion where we least expected to see him, his brown body almost invisible in the dappled light. He was a magnificent specimen and he stared at us with drooping eyes. I didn’t even try for a shot for in film parlance the ‘top-light’ conditions almost certainly would condemn the footage to the garbage bin. After a few seconds, the lion quickly made off but by then Dipti was insisting that she could smell a kill. searched the area on foot, keeping a wary eye out in case the lion came back, and
then I found the dead sambar lying semi-hidden and we could hardly believe our luck. Lions in Gir had often been filmed eating buffaloes which were provided as bait during the ‘lion show’ days, but I for one had never seen it on a natural kill. Also, the males rarely, if ever, killed anything, let alone a sambar stag, usually leaving work to the females. Part of stomach and the hindquarters had been eaten and I figured that the lion as unlikely to return until four that evening. After hacking a route for the jeep to enable us to sit on the kill, we left.
We could hardly wait to get back and yet we had to be careful so as to avoid disturbing the area by getting .here too early. In the end, with the excitement mounting, we settled in over the kill as scheduled and within a minute, the leaves rustled to our left and the lion walked up and sat down fifteen feet from the sambar. Again, inside the forest, the light was terrible and I had to revert to my widest Gaur—the Indian bison at a waterhole in Palamau lens and then we were treated to a display that will stay in our minds for years. Bothered by the flies from the kill, he tossed his shaggy mane and kept, changing his position which made photography virtually impossible. Then, with an impatient shrug, he walked up to the sambar and began tearing at it, oblivious of the jeep and the noise of the camera. A minute later, for no apparent reason, he was gone.
We couldn’t have asked for better footage, and on subsequent days the lions provided us with plenty of different shots. What we wanted was a pride, and as there were reports of five males which hung around together at the western edge of the park, we headed there early one morning. The sun hadn’t come up when we ran in-
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