Maya demands to be fed!
If she is not given her favourite meal, she takes it to heart and refuses to interact with anyone at her home including her friend, Sanjeev Pednekar.
But once she feels full, the mare can go through the day without any complaint and is the most active in her community comprising 300 animals.
Living in the outskirts of Bengaluru, a 20-minute drive from The Art Of Living International Centre on Kanakapura Road, Maya has now made ‘Prani–Pet Sanctuary’ her home.
The one-of-its-kind sanctuary, founded by Sanjeev, is not a zoo or a regular sanctuary. It is home to rescued animals, and open to visits from people who want to interact with and observe them.
Sanjeev, The Animal Lover
Speaking to The Better India, Sanjeev recalls his first ever interaction with an animal.
I was in school when an animal expert was called in, to speak about animals. I was asked to carry a crocodile on my shoulders. I was scared but after a while I felt this sudden happy rush after petting him. That’s how my love for animals began.
Throughout his school and college, Sanjeev volunteered for numerous animal welfare agencies, gaining immense experience and knowledge.
He also has been an active animal rescuer. From rodents to dogs, there was a time when 40 animals were part of his rescue mission.
As their numbers increased, finding enough space for them started to become an issue, and that was when he decided to open a home for animals which would also make children an integral part of it.
I have never liked the concept of classroom education because it fails to give a wholesome experience to the students. My idea was simple —to develop a habitat classroom, where students can come and learn all about animals. Getting to know the animals up and close at a young age will help them to co-exist with them in future, says the 29-year-old.
After facing several rejections from potential investors for a pet sanctuary, Sanjeev’s family stepped in and provided him with financial support to fuel his dreams.
With 40 animals and one-acre land, Sanjeev opened the sanctuary in 2017, and eventually, Karthik Prabhu, a conservationist and 16 other people, came on board to run the place. Today, it houses more than 300 animals including donkeys, dogs, pony, snakes, rabbits, ducks, geese, sheep, goats and so on.
The visit to the sanctuary is free depending on the group. For instance, students from government schools can visit it for free. Whereas for students from private schools or adults, the entry fee is Rs 400.
The visit includes an array of activities. The experts conduct a tour for the visitors explaining every detail about the animal. “Every animal has to be handled differently with utmost care and love. It is important for children to learn this now.”
To develop a personal bond, the visitors are allowed to touch, feed, pet and bathe the animals.
The team allocates additional time to children who are scared of animals or adults who want to learn about animal rescue process.
In other miscellaneous activities, the visitors also get a chance to witness the process of making biogas from waste, besides getting a hands-on session on gardening.
The sanctuary has an overnight stay option for people who want to spend more time with the animals. This gives them a chance to learn about wildlife rescue, habitat creation, animal husbandry, captive management, snakebite mitigation, sustainable construction and naturalist training.
To ensure that the animals are in good health, the government veterinary doctors, conduct regular visits to the sanctuary. There is also an emergency room for unwell animals.
With a two-year experience of running a domesticated sanctuary and a 15-year relationship with the animals, Sanjeev now plans to embark on another adventure.
Though there are 300 animals in the sanctuary, it is not enough to cater to the huge population of Bengaluru let alone India. I want to open such places in every part of India so that people get a chance to rebuild their relationship with animals, says Sanjeev.
Sanjeev is looking for investors to open pet sanctuaries in India. To get in touch with him, you can contact him here.