Forest saturation leading to ecoterrorism instead of ecotourism: Pamela Gale-Malhotra

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There is no doubt that the book From the heart of nature comes from the bottom of Pamela Gale-Malhotra‘s heart as it is an intense tale of the creation, life and future of a private forest sanctuary in Kodagu, Karnataka, Save Animals Initiative Sanctuary Trust. As co-founder and administrator of the sanctuary, Malhotra’s life revolves around stories of native trees and plants, animals and birds. She speaks with Vaishali Dar on how the sanctuary can be a model and an inspiration to the world. Edited excerpts:

Much has changed personally and professionally since you completed this book in two years. Was it difficult to carry on the legacy of SAI after the death of your husband?

It was both difficult and trying. My husband was part of this book, not only as a subject, but also as a sounding board. Continuing the living legacy of the SAI Sanctuary has been difficult, with financial management being a big part of it. But being in the sanctuary with all the forests, rivers and wildlife, it infuses me with positive energy. Having a forest sanctuary full of wildlife has always been my childhood dream. It turned into a passion born out of a love of nature, but also fueled by the horrific destruction of the natural world. I hope my book will spread the word about the urgent need to protect the natural ecosystems we depend on for our survival.

The book has references of karma and spirituality. How is it related to nature?

Karma is the law of life, just like the law of gravity: what goes up must come down. What we give and do with our thoughts, words and deeds comes back to enrich us or haunt us like a boomerang that comes back to hit us in the head when we least expect it! This is what we are experiencing when it comes to climate change and the sixth wave of species extinctions on earth.

We reclaim the results that our own actions have caused by the indiscriminate felling of forests, the pollution of rivers and oceans, and the slaughter of wildlife as well as other humans. The disturbance of the balance of nature and the ingenious cycle of life has been disrupted by mankind.

What kind of species are permanent residents of SAI?

The sanctuary has become a nursery for many species including Asian elephants, Bengal tiger, Indian leopard, Dhole or Indian wild dog, golden jackal, Indian jungle cat, civet species, mongoose, Eurasian sparrowhawk, small quail and Asian palm swift. , two species of river otter (small-clawed and Eurasian species that have not been seen in the region for over 100 years – both are critically endangered like tigers and elephants)… the list is long.

How do you maintain their seasonal choices, habitat, etc.?

Although we have received rescued wild animals of different species for their rehabilitation and eventual release back into the wild on the instructions of the Principal Chief Conservator of Karnataka Forests, we have never transported or introduced any animals into the sanctuary. This would be against wildlife laws. We have preserved protected natural grasslands, wetlands and riparian areas of flowing rivers and ponds throughout the sanctuary and planted thousands of native fruit trees over the years that are endemic to the area. For example, bamboo, in the case of elephants, also protects riverine areas, as natural grasslands, grasslands and wetlands are essential for small and large grazers. We keep the river system free of litter and plastic bags to prevent water pollution.

Over 100 million animals are used by humans for testing and studies. Isn’t this ruthless murder in the name of science?

Animals used for testing and studies are a disgusting and completely unnecessary waste of life and betray a lack of compassion in the hearts of all who participate in them, especially since there is no need to do so. . The results of these tests often do not match human responses when the same tests are performed on humans.

Scientific studies can bring us back to nature and help us appreciate it by providing the basis and key ingredients for so many medicinal remedies. Science can help us rediscover nature in the right way. But there is no justification for the cruelty exercised on animals in the name of “science”, none.

Declining biodiversity across the globe and activities such as logging, poaching, fishing and mining have altered the natural world. What do you think?

I am okay. Biodiversity is nature’s insurance policy, like when a species is sick or partially misses other steps to fill that niche in the chain of life. Studies have shown that areas rich in biodiversity have fewer pests and diseases from animals and humans than areas lacking in biodiversity. We need to change our mindset from “exploitation” of nature to “cooperation” with nature. We are part of nature, not outside of nature. There is much to learn from indigenous peoples who have thrived in nature. This is why biomimicry is the science that imitates nature in the way its species has learned to live and survive – like termites in termite mounds that are naturally cool even in the hottest African sun – by building structures that mimic the same airflows to cool buildings naturally without having to rely on outside energy for cooling or even for heating.

Ordinary people often feel powerless in the face of climate change. How can they help?

First, look at your own lifestyle and see how you can change your own lifestyle – don’t waste, don’t buy new things to get something “new” when the old one works, by cutting back, reusing, recycling. Turn off all electrical appliances when not in use. Carpool to work or use public transportation, walk whenever you can. Plant a garden, even in a planter, and grow your own food. Our food choices have a huge impact on the planet: the more meat and fish we eat, the more the forests are cut down and the oceans emptied of the creatures essential to keeping the oceans healthy and absorbing the carbon they absorb. Encourage and support forests. The aim is to replenish fragmented government forest areas, helping to control climate change, building biological and migration corridors for wildlife to help end human-wildlife conflict.

Do you think the need for regulated tourism could help preserve forests and how?

Promoting genuine ecotourism is good. But the saturation of hotels, homestays, resorts in forest areas is turning into “eco-terrorism”, especially for wildlife with excess pollution everywhere, limited water supplies pushed to the limit. beyond their capacity, and the noise and disturbances turning the forest into an extension of a city rather than the natural world of wonders it is meant to be. Tourism in forest areas needs to be better regulated and the number of tourists reduced.

From the heart of nature
Pamela Gale-Malhotra
Random penguin house
Pp 592, Rs 599

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