For 31-year-old Raseela Vadher, being among the first women to be recruited to guard Gir National Park, the home of the endangered Asiatic lion, was a dream come true. Today, having completed over 1,000 rescues — 300 involving lions, 515 involving leopards, and the rest involving crocodiles and pythons, among other wildlife — she raises awareness in neighbouring villages as well.
Raseela, who hails from Junagadh district, decided to try her luck when Gujarat’s Forests and Environment Department began recruiting in 2007. While her brother failed his fitness test, she made it through. According to a report by Forbes India, she said,
Women had worked in the administrative departments, and at check-post security duties. I did not want to do this. When the opening was for the animal rescue team, I thought why not try it.
From rescuing a lion in a well to controlling a leopard on the prowl, Raseela deals with wild animals for a living. Today she specialises in anti-poaching operations.
Dr AP Singh, Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife Circle) in Junagadh, said,
Vadher, like other women in the forest service, has proved that nothing is impossible. They are fearless and extremely hard-working, sometimes more than the men.
Though Raseela lives in the staff quarters, her family stays 42 km away in Bhanduri. Her husband works in Verawal and visits her once in a while. In spite of living away from her family, Raseela has adapted herself to the new environment, adds a DNA report. About a job that demands complete mindfulness, she said,
There's a difference between training and a real-life situation. No amount of training can prepare you for a rescue; you have to assess the situation, surroundings, and context afresh in each case. You learn from each experience. We say a rescue is successful only when neither the animal nor anyone in the team is hurt in the process.