Babaravidi, a maternity home for lionesses
Times Newsline By: Sibte Husain Bukhari
Junagadh, May 11: Babaravidi has two unique features. While lions fall prey to paochers elsewhere, here they are safe in while living and breeding. Besides, people living in surrounding villages are lion-friendly and they do care a lot for the big cats, quite like their own family.
Babaravidi, a reserved forest area spread over 1,500 hectare outside Gir forest, is better known as a maternity home for lionesses. Located at about 15 km from Gir sanctuary in Maliya taluka of Junagadh district, it is surrounded by revenue area and a large human population. Wild cats find this place to be an ideal labour room and a safe haven for their newborn cubs.
The area with plain grassland provides suitable atmosphere to big cats. At least one dozen villages are situated along its border. The residents of these villages are lion-friendly and they consider themselves as parents of mother lionesses.
According to Babara village sarpanch Kalabhai Pithiya, his family has been engaged in agriculture in this area for decades. He says a group of lions came here about five years back, and since then, the lions have made it their permanent home. “And when the big cats conceive, they come here for delivering the cubs,” he said.
“When the lion poaching incidents surfaced, I convened a meeting. People from eight villages, especially youths and farmers, attended. They formed alert groups in each village to ensure the safety and security of the lions, particularly in this region,” the sarpanch said.
A septuagenarian of Babara village said: “It is our tradition that married daughters visit their parents’ home for delivery; we treat the lionesses and their cubs with the same feelings.”'
Villages like Babara, Pankawa, Chuladi, Pithiya, Dharampur, Juner, Vandervad and Itali are located on the periphery of Babaravidi. People living in these villages mostly belong to Aahir and Koli community and are farmers. “Lions are symbols of power, so we take care of these animals like our family members,” said Haridas, a farmer.
“To provide drinking water facility to domestic as well as wild animals, particularly roaming lions, water holes have been built in almost all farmlands here. Beside, if lions are found trapped in wells, our youth are always there to lend a helping hand,” said farmers of these villages.