In the Southwest Indian state of Karnataka, a beautiful 300-acre forest serves as a sanctuary for animals such as Bengal Tigers, Asian Elephants, Hyena, Wild Boar, Leopards, and Sambha, as well as hundreds of varieties of native trees, thanks to the work of Pamela and Anil Malhotra.
Driven by their passion for wildlife and nature conservation, the couple has worked diligently over the last 25 years to transform barren land into what is known as the SAI Sanctuary. Unlike most people, Anil and Pamela believe that the challenge of conserving wildlife and the bio-diversity of the land should be faced by all like-minded people, including individuals, NGOs and conservation agencies, and not left to governments alone, whose interests are often not environmentally friendly.
One of the biggest motivations behind the creation of the SAI Sanctuary is Pamela and Anil’s realization that one of the biggest crises facing the world is the lack of fresh water. They have used the land as a project to show that Mother Nature has the ability to regenerate itself, if only given the chance. They have followed three important rules:
- No chopping down of any tree
- No human interference
- No poachers
This bio-diverse sanctuary is now rich in plant and animal life, with thick trees, expansive green cover, a river housing several aquatic fish and snake species, and over 305 species of birds. Responding to the devastation of the planet’s lands through monoculture, deforestation and excavation of natural resources, SAI has become a living example of the possibility in reestablishing some of the balance essential for nature to thrive.
“People think that animals need the forest. But the truth is, the forest needs the animals equally. While the forest helps animals in providing shelter and food, animals help forests in regeneration – they are both inter-dependent and we should make efforts to preserve both,” says Anil.
Pamela gives a unique example of this co-dependancy between plants and animals:
“Elephants are very important for regeneration of the forests as they swallow the seed completely without breaking it, unlike other species. Around 30 species of trees totally depend upon elephants for regeneration.“
Deforestation in the equatorial region is believed to be one of the main reasons for the water crisis facing the world. It is contributing to higher temperatures and a quicker evaporation process and has thus impaired the hydrological cycle – the rainfall cycle – of the planet. It is one of the main causes of the spiraling loss of plant, animal and insect species, which threatens the overall balance of the planet.
In vast areas of equatorial deforested land, natural water sources, which use to provide water to animals and crops on local lands, have dried up or offer very little water, especially during the dry season that lasts about half of the year in most tropical regions. With little shade and decreasing animal activity, the soil is dying, and thus it is increasingly difficult for farmers to grow food. They turn to fertilizers and herbicides, which are toxic to the environment and have further harmed all living things, including people.
The problem of barren land, no longer fit for crop cultivation, is exactly what created the opportunity for Anil and Pamela to purchase the lands that now make up the SAI Sanctuary. They purchased unused and abandoned land from farmers who were faced with debt as their land stood idle because they were not able to grow crops. What started with 55 acres in 1991 has grown into the only private wildlife sanctuary in India extending over 300 acres.
The sanctuary won the “Wildlife and Tourism Initiative Of The Year” award by Sanctuary Asia in 2014. It offers a unique experience to the visitors and includes an organic farm and nearly 12 acres of coffee and around 15 acres of cardamom on the land. The sanctuary runs completely on solar and alternate energy.
Below is a short documentary about SAI, Rooted Truth, during which the passionate couple shares their great message on how a small group can make a tremendous impact on nature conservation.
Read more articles from Anna Hunt.
About the Author
Anna Hunt is writer, yoga instructor, mother of three, and lover of healthy food. She’s the founder of Awareness Junkie, an online community paving the way for better health and personal transformation. She’s also the co-editor at Waking Times, where she writes about optimal health and wellness. Anna spent 6 years in Costa Rica as a teacher of Hatha and therapeutic yoga. She now teaches at Asheville Yoga Center and is pursuing her Yoga Therapy certification. During her free time, you’ll find her on the mat or in the kitchen, creating new kid-friendly superfood recipes.
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