Couple creates wildlife sanctuary in India by letting barren farmland return to nature

The husband and wife have spent 25 years buying up wasteland farmers no longer wanted; now elephants, tigers and leopards roam free there.

Sometimes it takes a village, sometimes it just takes a person or two, as in the case of Anil and Pamela Malhotra who together are creating what is likely India’s first private wildlife sanctuary.

Having met and married in the United States in the 1960s, the couple moved to India in 1986 after visiting for the funeral of Anil’s father. While generally it would be the beauty of a place to inspire relocation, for the Malhotras it was the opposite – the terrible state of nature in Haridwar was the attraction.

"There was so much deforestation, the timber lobby was in charge, and the river was polluted. And no one seemed to care. That was when we decided to do something to reclaim the forests in India," Anil tells the India Times.

After looking for land to purchase, in 1991 they settled on a 55-acre plot down south in Brahmagiri, a mountain range in the Western Ghats. The land was a mess, Anil, 75, and Pamela, 64, say that the owner wanted to sell it because he could no longer grow on it.

"For me and Pamela, this was what we were looking for all our life," says Anil. And thus began the transformation, orchestrated by Mother Nature, of barren farmland into what is now the Save Animals Initiative (SAI) Sanctuary.

SAIMelissa Lesh/Vimeo/Screen capture

Since then, the couple has been purchasing land as it becomes available, most of it agricultural acreage that has been stripped of its fertility.

"Once we bought the land, we allowed the forest to regenerate. We planted native species where necessary and allowed nature to take care of the rest," says Anil.

SAIMelissa Lesh/Vimeo/Screen capture

As of now, the SAI Sanctuary boasts some 300 acres of beautiful bio-diverse rainforest that elephants, tigers, leopards, deer, snakes, birds and hundreds of other animals all call home. Naturalists and scientists come to do research on animals as well as the hundreds of indigenous trees and plants. And guests are invited to come and stay in the two eco-tourist cottages on the property as a way to help support the continuing efforts of the Malhotras. Efforts that are making waves in both a mountain range in India and all the way across the world as news of this noble endeavor continues to spread.

You can see all of the beautiful nature and meet the Malhotras in this trailer for a film made about the couple and their work.

And for more information, visit the the sanctuary's website.

Tags: Conservation | India | Nature

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