According to Forest Department officials, this may be the largest number of Gir lions captured in a single image.
Two lion prides, consisting of 18 Asiatic lions, were photographed by wildlife photographer Preeti Pandya in the Dedakadi area of Gujarat’s Gir Forest on June 5. The rare event, believed to be some sort of record by wildlife experts, is believed to be one of the first instances where such large numbers of wild lions were captured in a single image at Gir National Park.
The making of rare photography
Preeti Pandya clicked the photo on June 5, which is World Environment Day, by the way. She and her husband, wildlife photographer and conservationist, Bhushan Pandya, said they started the day seeing two lions and two lionesses at different locations in the Gir’s Raidi area. Later, they traveled to Dedakadi, where they saw tourists near a waterhole watching a pride of two adult lionesses and five lion cubs. When the tour group left, the couple stayed put. The lionesses got up, walked towards them, and settled down in an open area in front of a hill. A team of trackers had told the Pandyas earlier in the day about another pride of four lionesses and nine cubs that was nearby, but the two prides had so far moved away from each other . “Suddenly the proudest one emerged from the bushes and joined the smallest one… There were 20 of them in total, but two of them had left the frame,” Preeti Pandya said. “The moment was truly heavenly.”
A feat that places her in an elite club
According to Forest Department officials, this may be the largest number of Gir lions captured in a single image. In 1971, Suleman Patel’s black and white photograph of nine lions in a single frame created an international buzz. Then, in 1999, Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer BP Pati clicked a photo of 11 feral cats on color film, and later that year Bhushan Pandya captured 13 lions of the same family. In December 2011, Forestry Officer Sandeep Kumar took a photo with 14 lions, and in 2016, Forest Service Officers T Karuppasamy and Sakkira Begum photographed a pride of 16 lions.