Imagine waking up to the glistening sun and the sweet tunes of the hummingbirds. There is fresh air and a panorama of gorgeous green lands. Imagine this and now imagine how far-fetched this dream is when we live in a city where the beauty of nature and the comfort of living in natural serenity is fast-disappearing. But there is a couple who never gave up on this dream and worked hard for their very own one-of-it’s-kind wildlife sanctuary.
Along the slopes of the mountain ranges in the Western Ghats of Brahmagiri, surrounded by the Podanni stream flowing down the hills, there lies a lush green forest which houses the magnificent Save Animal Initiative (SAI) Sanctuary. Owned by the couple Pamela, 64, and Anil Malhotra, 75, the SAI sanctuary is the only private wildlife sanctuary of India sheltering rare endangered species of animals and approximately 300 birds.
Even back in the days when Anil, an alumnus of Doon School, was busy in the US with his restaurant and real-estate business, the couple always had an awareness of global warming and an urge to put an effort towards saving the forests for the future. While traveling to India for Anil’s father’s funeral in 1986, Anil and Pamela was taken aback by the horrendous pollution in Haridwar. It was then they had this epiphany of reclaiming and conserving the forests in India.
On a hunt for a land to start off their afforestation work, they came to an understanding that they would not find land in the North due to the land ceiling hurdle there. Heading southwards, finally in 1991, they got lucky with a 55 acres land in the Brahmagiri range that was fallow and abandoned by the farmers due to excess of rainfall in Kodagu district of Karnataka.They sold their property in Hawaii and began the afforestation work here. Kodagu being the micro hotspot of biodiversity in the planet, the couple decided to collect more land here. There were initial setbacks and the couple had to face some legal complications as the land documents of many of the farmers were not in place. But within time, they were successfully able to expand the stretch from 55 to 300 acres.
The couple strictly abide by three rules: No chopping the trees, no human interference, and no poachers. After much skepticism from the local villagers who often wondered about the intentions of the couple, they were able to create some awareness in them. They were then able to carry on the process with harmony with not a lot of interference from them. With the help of the forest department, they were able to set up cameras to keep off the poachers. There were a lot of native trees that were retained and there is a river that flows in the heart of the sanctuary that caters to the water needs of the flora and fauna.
Today, the sanctuary invites scientists and naturalists to do research on the animal species, old trees and tiny plants of medicinal value. To keep on with the work here, the couple gets aided by other trustees. They also try to influence the larger corporate bodies to replicate the same idea and share the social responsibilities of flourishment. If you want to take a first-hand experience of this enchanted sanctuary, there are two eco-friendly cottages to reside in.
What a wonderful pleasure it is to see an unparalleled passion like this to take life of a noble cause!