This husband and wife transformed barren farmland into a tropical paradise, bringing back rain, rivers and endangered animals including elephants, tigers and leopards
Since 1991, Pamela and Anil Malhotra have bought up over 300 acres of dead, dry, deserted farmland in Southern India, and transformed it into an oasis.
They did so simply by planting trees and inviting wildlife back onto the land.
Before it became a desert, thanks to centuries of intensive farming, Southern India was a lush tropical rainforest.
But when the trees were cleared to make way for crops, the rain stopped falling, and the rivers and aquifers dried up.
Recognizing the link between deforestation and drought, the couple got to work planting native trees and letting the land rewild.
In rainforest areas, the forest itself produces over 50% of the rainfall, Pamela says in the video below:
The rainforests capture moist air coming in from the ocean and help produce rain in the plains thousands of kilometers away, she explains.
“So the forest is helping create above above-ground and below-ground water sources,” she says.
Thanks to agriculture, the Malhotra’s home district of Kodagu went from 86 percent forest cover in the 1970s to less than 16 percent today.
“This is having disastrous effects on rainfall patterns and water supplies, not just in our district, but throughout the southern peninsula of India,” Pamela says.
“Streams and rivers originate from forests,” her husband Anil adds.
That’s why so many have dried up or drastically reduced in size, he says — “deforestation.”
“Without forests there is no fresh water.”
In addition to trees, the Malhotra’s quickly realized they also needed animals, big animals, to keep the forest alive and growing.
“There are 30 species of trees that are fully dependent on elephants for propagation because their seeds are so big only elephants can swallow them down and pass them whole,” Pamela said. “ So, without the elephants you don’t have these trees.”
“If we can piece back together the migration corridor of elephants, and other great landscape animals, we’re protecting forests for all the other animals too,” she adds.
Their “personal” rainforest — called the Save Animals Initiative Sanctuary — is home to over 200 endangered species including the river otter, civet cat, giant Malabar squirrel, various types of deer, monkey, and snake (including the Indian King Cobra), dhole (Indian wild dog), fox, jackal, leopard, the Asian elephant, and even the Royal Bengal Tiger.
“They come here because they are safe,” Pamela says. “They know they’ve got plenty of water. They can bring their infants here without any problems from humans.”
The sanctuary includes 700-year-old trees, each of which serves as a micro ecosystem for at least 50 other species of plants and animals.
The land is a living laboratory that proves “Mother Nature will regenerate herself if given half a chance,” Pamela says.