In March 2013, the residents of Jalandhar village in Junagadh, Gujarat, woke up to a commotion. A leopard had fallen in an under-construction well with a depth of around 40-50 feet. About 1,000 kilometres away, a phone rang in the Gir National Park requesting help from the Park’s rescue team. A worried Rasila Wadher jumped from her chair, packed her essentials and left to Jalandhar along with her team.
On reaching the location, she got into the cage used for rescue operations. Her team lowered the cage inside the well and Rasila tranquilised the big cat with a dart gun. After making sure the leopard is unconscious, she slowly got out of the cage and helped get it out of the well. The team then later released the leopard in the Gir forest.
This is one of the many successful animal rescue operations that Rasila has completed since 2007.
Rasila, who is known for her exemplary courage and love for wild animals, was the first woman to be enrolled in the forest department of Gir National Park in Gujarat. Since then she has rescued a total of 1,100 wild animals including 400 leopards, 200 lions, crocodiles, pythons and birds.
Back in 2007, when, the then 21-year-old Rasila completed her graduation in Hindi literature, she started to look for a government job aggressively to help her mother financially.
My brother and I lost our father while we were growing up in Bhanduri village. My mother worked round the clock as a labourer to feed us and educate us. So, upon graduating, my only objective was to earn enough to give her a better life, Rasila tells The Better India (TBI).
Good at sports, she took a risk and applied for the post of a forest guard, a job role predominantly given to men. She cleared the physical test and viva with flying colours and within two years of her joining, got a promotion.
In the initial days, her fellow teammates including her seniors would try to discourage her by giving her desk work. Instead of succumbing to the pressure or fighting tooth and nail with her colleagues, she quietly continued with her work and let it speak for itself.
Narrating one of the cases that helped her gain immense respect from her entire department, Rasila says, “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.”
Having led multiple operations over 12 years, Rasila made all efforts to ensure no harm came to the animals in distress. Her endeavours paid off as no single life has so far been lost during the rescue operations. “My success rate is a 100 per cent,” shares a proud Rasila.
When asked what her secret to successful operations is, she answers,
There is no set formula that I follow. Every rescue, animal, and place is different. I tend to take a new approach and follow a fresh strategy in every operation. This has helped me gain a lot of experience.
Another striking quality about Rasila, who is now a mother, is her fierce attitude that keeps her going. If there is one thing you can learn from her is the way she treats the animals.
Animals, be it wild or domestic, will not give you trouble unless you give them one. I don’t know what fear or danger is, but I know what love is. Show them love, and they’ll return the favour, she signs off.
Rasila was recently promoted to Forest Rescuer. She is now the head of Gir’s Rescue department. From having just one star on her uniform to now having three, from working as a subordinate to now heading a department, Rasila’s journey defines courage, dedication, hard work and genuine love for animals.
We salute her efforts and her gutsy attitude!
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)