Pamela and Anil Malhotra have devoted their lives to creating the Save Animals Initiative sanctuary, (SAI) India’s only private wildlife preserve. There, they protect hundreds of species, as well as 700-year-old trees and other types of endangered plants. River otters, civets, Malabar squirrels, deer, monkeys, cobras, wild dogs, foxes, jackals, leopards, elephants, and tigers, all endangered, are their guests at SAI.
“They come here because they are safe,” says Pamela, about the animals, many of whom are threatened by poachers as well as by vanishing habitat. “They know they’ve got plenty of water. They can bring their infants here without any problems from humans.”
The Malhotras are so committed to ensuring that safety, they’ve fought off poachers physically—Pamela once wielding a log to drive them away.
Establishing the sanctuary was neither easy nor quick. The Malhotras met and married in the United States, where Pamela gave up her career in marketing, and Anil walked away from being a restaurant owner and banker so they could build this haven for animals and plants.
Thirty years ago, they used their combined savings to acquire 55 acres of barren land in the Ghat region of India, one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet until seriously threatened by deforestation (86% forest cover in 1970; 16% in 2020!).
Anil says, “Without forests there is no fresh water.” The Malhotras began planting indigenous trees, transplanting saplings, reviving the barren land. Pamela describes the progress: “First came the grasses. They came in thick. Then smaller shrubs. With them, the insects returned. Then with the trees came the monkeys and elephants. It took a lot of care, energy, time, and effort to bring them back. People thought we were crazy, but that’s okay. A lot of people had thought that those who had done some amazing things are crazy.”
Crazy, maybe, but it’s working. The sanctuary, now encompassing 300 acres, includes a rehabilitation and release site for injured reptiles, birds, and small mammals they’ve rescued from illegal ownership and trade. They welcome visitors in a home powered by sun and wind, and provide them with fresh food from their organic garden, along with a living lesson in rehabilitating dead environments.
“We use our sanctuary as a living laboratory,” says Pamela. “It becomes a way for people to see how Mother Nature, if given half a chance, will regenerate herself.”