One Couple in India Is Buying Land — And Letting It Go Wild

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A tiger in the grass at Ranthambore park
A male tiger sprawls in the foliage at Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan. Sourabh Bharti/Shutterstock

Compared to the barren, brown stretch of land that juts up against it, the Singh family's lot sticks out like a green thumb.

In the video above produced by Mongabay India, you can see how the sprawling acres of the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, India, edge up against a vast expanse of parched, empty farmlands.

And there, plumb in that heart of brownness, is a patch of verdant green, a forest flush with hope. Aditya and Poonam Singh, purchased that land when it looked a lot like its surroundings.

Then they let it go wild.

"I just bought this and did nothing to it except removing the invasive species," Aditya tells Mongabay India. "We allowed the land to recover and now after 20 years, it has become a lush green patch of forest which is frequently visited by all kinds of animals, including tigers, leopards and wild boars, throughout the year."

Sometimes, you've got to start by building a little forest in your heart. Aditya, a former civil servant, and Poonam, a tourist resort operator, moved to the area from New Delhi after a visit to the Ranthambore Reserve.

"My first sighting was a tigress with three cubs on a hill," Poonam tells Mongabay. "It was magical. At the end of the trip, I just asked him if we can move to Ranthambore."

The couple, as the video notes, gradually bought land adjacent to the tiger reserve starting in 1998.

"It was cheap because there was no road access to it and no electricity," Aditya says in the video. "You just couldn't grow anything."

"We bought it. We fenced it. And we forgot about it."

But that was only the beginning. Over the next 20 years, the couple bought more than 35 acres of land around the reserve. All of it fell under the same abiding principle: Let it grow wild.

Of course, they had to be vigilant about people cutting down trees or animals overgrazing. But ultimately, those dark, scarred farmlands bounced back in a big way. Trees, and eventually, major watering holes developed there. Shrubs and trees emerged soon after, eventually matching those found in the adjacent reserve.

They became verdant forests, teeming with tigers and other wild animals. And hope, too.

"Money was never the consideration," Aditya tells Mongabay. "It is just about my love for nature and wildlife. Instead, these days I am getting queries from people across India who want to replicate a similar model in their state."