The mesmerising story of Asiatic lions, once on the brink of extinction but who now spill over the borders of Gir Sanctuary and have found a way to become an integral part of the Gujarat’s farming community, has been captured on film.
A special one-hour long programme by Discovery Channel uncovers the story of these lions as they adapt their savannah hunting instincts to work alongside humans in starlit fields and orchards.
The programme offers testimonies of villagers and people from the farming community about their camaraderie with the big cats and their co-existence with minimal conflict.
Accompanied by his team the director of the programme Praveeen Singh scoured the Gir National Park, the only place in the world where Asiatic lions are found, for over three years tracking the animals both during the day and in the night.
"Sometimes for us it was like looking for a needle in a haystack we had to undertake long hours of travel across the approximately 1400 square kilometres of Gir," says Singh.
Once found all over North India, the population of Asiatic Lions had dwindled to about 20 in the 1920s, says the filmmaker adding that they are close to about 500 and spill over from Gir to surrounding villages.
"It is a fascinating story about the survival of Asiatic Lions amongst human beings and will force the audience to rethink their views about these dangerous predators," says Rahul Johri, Executive Vice President and General Manager South Asia, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific.
The cameras also capture animal species like hyenas, jungle cats, leopards, jackals, nilgai’s, wild boars, porcupines, deer among others roaming unhindered right next to villages, in orchards and fields with people totally unaware of their presence.
Singh’s team used special thermal, starlight, infrared and hidden cameras to capture striking images.
"Without any other light whatever available light was the moonlight and we had to use special cameras that operate when detecting the heat from the subject," says Singh.
"There is nothing friendly about the lions. They are wild animals but with their population having grown people in surrounding villages are now used to seeing them," says Singh.
"India’s Wandering Lions" has been produced by Kosmik Global Media in association with Discovery Channel is scheduled to premiere on July 6.