Explore the beauty of SAI Sanctuary in Karnataka, India’s first private wildlife sanctuary
When Anil K Malhotra and Pamela went on their honeymoon to Hawaii, they fell in love with its beauty and decided to settle there. One thing that was particularly common among them was their love for the nature since childhood. The trip to Hawaii made a serious impact on their life, because it was then the couple learnt the value of forests and realized that despite threats of global warming no serious efforts were being made to save forests for the future.
Back in 1986, when they came to India for the funeral of Anil’s father, the pollution in Haridwar horrified them. That is when the couple decided to do something to reclaim the forests in India.
The couple has transformed 300 acres farmland in Karnataka into a private wildlife sanctuary which is known as the ‘Save Animals Initiative or SAI Sanctuary.’ It is probably the first private sanctuary in India. Pamela and her husband Anil K Malhotra spent the last 25 years buying denuded and abandoned agricultural land in Karnataka’s Kodagu district and reforesting it and finally transforming the land into a biodiverse rainforest having more than 300 kinds of birds as well as many rare and threatened animal species.
When I came here with a friend who suggested I buy this land, it was a wasteland of 55 acres. The owner wanted to sell because he couldn’t grow coffee or anything else here. For me and Pamela, this was what we were looking for all our life, says Anil.
They sold the property they owned in Hawaii, bought the first 55 acres at the foothills of the Brahmagiri range and began afforestation work. Soon, they realized there was no use nurturing a forest on one side of the stream when landholders on the other side were using pesticides for cultivation.
We started buying land across the stream whenever they came up for sale. Many of the farmers considered their holdings ‘wasteland’ as very little grew on it and were happy to get money. 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.
Today, SAI Sanctuary covers approximately 300 acres, and draws naturalists and scientists for research on the different animal species like Bengal Tiger, Sambhar and Asian Elephants as well as hundreds of indigenous trees and plants, which have medicinal value as well.
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Image Credit: antekante