Preity Pandya, wife of famous wildlife advocate and wildlife photographer Bhushan Pandya, captured 18 gir lions in a single frame during the couple’s visit to Gujarat’s famous gir forest on World Environment Day last month. This is the largest number of Lions captured in a single frame in the history of the forest.
We have been getting information that two prides owning a total of 20 lions have been seen roaming the Didakadi area of Gir in the past few days. On June 5, while visiting that part of Gir, we were fortunate to witness two prides–one consisting of two lionesses and five cubs and one of four lionesses and nine cubs–briefly meeting. Preity was fortunate to have been able to capture 18 proud lions in one frame,” Bhushan, a conservation activist based in Rajkot, told the Indian Express.
The conservation activist said the big cat population was an appreciation for the conservation efforts of the forest department and people. He said two cubs couldn’t be captured in the frame because they were too terrified and out of range of her camera’s wide-angle lens.
Spread across the Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts of the Saurashtra district of Gujarat, the Gir forest and other protected areas are home to the world’s only wild lions outside of Africa. The lions of the scenic Gir Forest fascinate wildlife photographers and wildlife lovers all over the world. In 1971, wildlife photographer Solomon Patel photographed nine lions licking water in a frame. The photo has been published in many publications and is internationally famous as a rare occurrence in the history of the Lion of Gir.
In the late 1990s, IFS officer BP Pati scored 11 lions in a single frame. Sometime after that, Buchan was lucky to click 13 lions from a family in one frame. In 2011, Sandeep Kumar, the deputy governor of the Sasan Forests, photographed the pride of 14 lions. IFS officer couple T Karuppasamy and Sakkira Begum photographed 16 lions in a frame in 2016. Now, Preeti, a 58-year-old housewife who has accompanied her husband on his travels for more than two decades, has set a new record by capturing 18 lions in single frame.
“Generally, Bhushan and our son Neshad shoot and sometimes I will film Bhushan doing his work. But on this particular trip to Gir, Nishad was not accompanying us as he was on a business trip, and Bhushan gave me the camera. I wasn’t expecting anything like this. I’ve never seen such Too many lions together in my life.But having said that, there was really no time to count them.After seeing my husband and son photographing wildlife, I just started frantically pressing the shutter button on my camera and thank God I got this frame Preeti, who has a diploma in home science and worked in her husband’s photo studio, said.
Bhushan sustained life-threatening injuries in a car accident on his way to Sasan, Gir in 2013. He was immobilized and confined to bed for several months. He has not yet been able to resume wildlife photography.
In fact, the couple saw 23 lions on that trip, including a male lion and two lionesses at other locations. But it was at the artificial watering hole in Gadakbari where all the drama unfolded. Bhushan, a member of the Gujarat Wildlife Council, said they first saw the pride of two adult lionesses and five young cubs, about three months old.
“We waited a little further from the gypsy tourists to allow the other tourists to view the lions undisturbed. … The happy tourists left slowly in the hope of spotting other lions or of course leopards. We were about to position ourselves better to see the mothers and their beloved cubs. Only then, The lionesses got up and started walking towards us, and the cubs followed in a row, swaying behind them. The pride of the seven crossed the road and settled in an open area, with a hill near Bhandarjala in the background,” Bhushan said.
After being told by Sasan’s experienced wildlife tracking team that there are another proud four lionesses and nine cubs in the same area, the pandas decide to keep watching the seven lions for some time. They were surprised to see Pride 13 walking to the same place. “After some time, the leaves snapped and our expectations heightened. The thirteen-year-old pride quickly emerged from the vegetation and to our surprise, joined the smaller pride and sat among them! Our joy is boundless. Such a rare vision, fortunately, on World Environment Day !” said Buchan, adding, “I have been to Gir for nearly six decades now, but I have not seen twenty lions together in my hundreds of visits here.”
Lions are territorial animals and often participate in bloody battles over territory. However, such fights are still limited to male lions. “I have noticed that females of different prides do not clash with each other on land,” Buchan said, adding that the newlyweds’ encounter was not violent.
Preeti said she dedicated the photos and videos to the state forest department and its hardworking field staff.
“Beyond records and numbers, this is a proud moment for all of us. The ongoing conservation efforts initiated by Nawab Rasulkhanji III of Junagadh twelve years ago are showing the desired results. The Department of Wildlife, local people, scientists, state and central governments, media and many NGOs have contributed significantly. In maintaining these conservation efforts, the number of lions, which was only 60-100 about 125 years ago, has risen to 674, and the landscape area of Asian lions is 30,000 square kilometers, according to Poonam Aflukan’s June 2020 results, Buchan said.