Pamela and Anil Malholtra
Pamela and Anil Malholtra

KARNATAKA India, (Diya TV) – Pamela and Anil Malholtra have spent the past 25 years of their lives buying denuded and abandoned agricultural land in Karnataka’s Kodagu district and reforesting it. Now, the couple has converted a recent purchase of 300 acres of land into what is being widely considered the first private wildlife sanctuary in all of India.

The land sits in Brahmagiri, a mountain range in the Western Ghats. Stretching almost an entire square mile, the land houses the Malhotras’ Save Animals Initiative Sanctuary, a new safe haven for a country with more than 300 types of bird species, and several rare and other threatened and endangered animals. Recently, a herd of 10 elephants was spotted strolling through the sanctuary, but it isn’t all about wildlife, the land itself is the foundation of plant life that is centuries old.

“That tree is about 700 years old and draws different types of birds,” Pamela said, as she proudly showcased one of the largest trees on the property.


The couple’s crusade to reinvigorate the land to a bio-diverse rainforest for elephants, tigers, leopards, deer, snakes, birds and hundreds of other creatures hasn’t been an easy journey. When the two arrived to this region of the country in 1991, land owners were more concerned about crops and what they could grow, than preservation.

Even though, it was a long and treacherous journey for them to create a safe wildlife sanctuary for animals like deers, all of their hard work will be worth it in the end. They may even be able to store food and some important nutrients for these animals, through something like these Boss Buck Feeders, ( to help with their survival and to provide them with the food they need to stay healthy. Not many people can say that they’ve done this, and regardless of how hard it has been for them, they have come a long way since arriving on the land.

“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,” said Anil. “For me and Pamela, this was what we were looking for all our life.”

They were inspired while visiting India in 1986 for the funeral of Anil’s father – the pollution in Haridwar horrified them.

“There was so much deforestation, the timber lobby was in charge, and the river was polluted. And no one seemed to care. That was when we decided to do something to reclaim the forests in India,” Anil said.

The couple soon realized their goal of obtaining land in north India was a far stretch, so they turned around and went south. Anil’s friends warned him that if he was looking to invest in land for a return, he should look to buy somewhere outside of Brahmagiri. There would be no profit margin to justify his investment, his friends told him.

“We were not looking for money. Early on, we realized that shortage of fresh water will be a concern for India and the rest of the world. Acquisition, protection and reclamation of forested lands and wildlife habitat, where vital water sources have their origin, is the only way to save ourselves,” Anil said.

After the couple sold property they owned in Hawaii, they bought their 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. So, at every opportunity, they began buying more and more land along the stream as soon as it became available. “Many of the farmers considered their holdings ‘wasteland,’ as very little grew on it and were happy to get money,” Anil said.

Hurdle after hurdle

Soon after the purchase of the land, the Malholtra’s then began their legal struggles against financiers and the government – several of the land owners they purchased acreage from had standing debt which remained unsettled. If the government wasn’t enough to tackle, they also had to combat poaching and hunting from the locals who lived in the area. Almost immediately labeled as outsiders, many asked “what this couple from the U.S.” was doing in their community.

“A priest of a temple located on a nearby hillock was killed by a tiger and villagers were afraid. We helped them rebuild the temple at a safer location, but our condition was that they’d give up hunting and poaching,” Pamela said. “When they asked us why, we asked them why they worshipped Hanuman and Ganesha but killed animals. It worked,” she said.

Moving forward, the Malholtra’s worked hand-in-hand with the local government and forest department to set up camera traps to keep poachers away. “There are times I have fought poachers with logs,” Pamela said.

Now, the land serves as a studying ground for naturalists and scientists from all over the world who come to observe and research on the different animal species as well as hundreds of indigenous trees and plants, which have medicinal value as well.