Green Initiative

A man-made sanctuary in Kodagu

This little sanctuary in South Kodagu is a man-made paradise. We are talking about Save Animals Initiative (SAI) Sanctuary, which encompasses an area of 300 acres and is a village by itself.

The fact that the forest in the area has been nurtured and retained in its purest natural form is due to the efforts of Anil Kumar Malhotra and Pamela Gale Malhotra, Managing Trustee and Co-Managing Trustee of SAI Sanctuary Trust.

“We started this initiative way back in 1993 with a meagre 55 acres and have expanded it as forest land. Some of the area is also used for cultivation of coffee, cardamom, bamboo, rice, banana, tomato and other vegetables and fruits,” adds Pamela. Anil quips, “The Western Ghats region is key source for fresh water and Kodagu is the heart serving Maharashtra and Karnataka.” The duo has settled in India, after donning various hats in the US (finance professionals, waiters, bartenders and hoteliers), only to find later that nature was their true calling.

“Preserving pristine water resources, expanding and protecting the sources of fresh water, cultivating natural organic foods without disturbing native trees and putting waste land to proper use,” has been their mission and they modestly admit to having achieved it gradually and add that they have miles to go.

So was the path all smooth? “Not at all,” Anil hastily adds. “Right from getting workers to procuring materials to managing finances, it has been an extremely tough but rewarding journey.” The Malhotras have also protected the environment while serving the economically downtrodden and socially backward classes for almost a decade in the Himalayas before embarking on this mega venture. Apart from protecting forests and freshwater, their other priorities include rescue, rehabilitation and release of wildlife, besides conservation of energy. The sanctuary boasts three micro hydro-generators, micro windmills and several solar panels along with solar hot water systems—all of which provide enough electricity to meet their needs. More importantly they do not avail the services of the State’s electricity grid and do not have a single connection to or meter of the power grid. The Malhotras fondly refer to the sanctuary as a natural forest.

True to its name, the sanctuary provides a sanctuary for elephants, deer and tigers to feast on while supplying fresh water to quench their thirst from its river and ponds. They also engage a veterinarian to treat injured birds and animals which come to the sanctuary and those brought in by villagers. The Malhotras themselves have saved an impressive collection of African love birds which are housed in a large aviary.

The sanctuary is characterised by the flavour of nature, be it in the form of homemade cottage cheese/paneer procured from their own cattle and served to guests or the walls made of natural stones (resembling entrances of caves). The Malhotras also take you to the roof-top tree canopy to help you get a bird’s eye view of the sanctuary stretching to the borders of Brahmagiri hills. The view is breathtaking. Anil proudly claims to have spread awareness in several villages on the advantages of organic farming. Anil points out that the place is not a picnic spot or a holiday destination, and says only those genuinely interested in nature should visit the sanctuary. SAI Sanctuary is located at Theralu Village and Post, South Kodagu District. It is near Birunani Village which is a 20 minute drive away.

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