BENGALURU: A pregnant pony was left in a gutter to die. Three emus were fed leftover food at a dhaba where they were kept as pets. A sun conure (native South American parrot) was labeled as a “reject piece” by a pet shop owner because it had deformed beak. These are the stories of only a few of the 150 animals that were rescued and have found a home at Prani.
It was Sanjeev Pednekar who came to the pony’s rescue and got it out of the gutter. It later delivered a healthy foal, which now lives at Prani – The Pet Sanctuary in Sunkadakatte. It took months to deworm the emus and feed them back to health. As for Krishna, the sun conure, Pednekar sat with it for days, filing its beak so that it could eat. Now, the bird can be seen hanging onto Pednekar’s T-shirt while the man lands kisses on it.
A herpetologist and an animal conservationist for 10 years, Pednekar (27) has rescued the tiniest of turtles to leopards and elephants. He is also a coordinator for BBMP’s forest cell and a consultant to state Forest Department.
It was eight years ago that Pednekar conceived the idea of Prani. During one of his ventures in a village, the herpetologist had let a child handle a non-venomous snake. “The expression on his face said it all. It was a powerful experience both for the child and me. And I knew I wanted to see many such faces,” he says.
“I wanted to make a space where people can interact with animals. Touch them, feed them, bathe them. I believe that this kind of connection makes one want to do protect animals,” he says.
In 2015, he roped in his friend Karthick Prabhu, an ecologist with 13 years of experience, and the duo decided on a plot of land near Somanahalli. Covered with weed at the time, the 1.5 acres took eight months of work until it was transformed into Prani. From the aviary, animal enclosures, stables, a hut for guests, toilets to even lamps, the duo (with help from some workers) built everything themselves.
In the 15 months since it opened, the place has played host to 1,000 people. Sanjeev has six people helping him at the farm, apart from his three dogs.
While the place charges the visitors `400, government school children are welcome free of cost.
Visitors are taken on a three-hour tour of the farm under expert supervision. The experience is nothing less than the feeling of being a part of a National Geographic show. Some people loved the place so much so that they decided to make Prani a part of their child’s home schooling schedule.
Take Mital Salia for instance. She had come from Mumbai and happened to visit Prani. After spending a day here, she wanted Prani to educate her son, whom she has been home schooling. “Seeing his interest in wildlife, I sent him to Prani. It has been the best school for him,” she says.
Her 14-year-old son Rushil Saila, who stayed at Prani for two-and-a-half-months, says, “I handled animals and took care of them. It has been a life-changing journey for me. My sense of responsibility and love for nature have developed immensely.”
Mital plans to bring more children to visit Prani from Mumbai.
Prani has inspired many children. Sanjeev says many government school children from Somanahalli and nearby areas keep coming back. So he lets them help around. They can feed the animals, groom the horse, milk the cow, and even accompany Sanjeev and Karthik on animal rescue missions. The youngest member at Prani, eight-year-old Kavana, who is home schooling here, recently rescued a blind dog from the roadside. She got it treated and rehabilitated.
“There was this one time, a group of children saw one of our goats give birth. You should have seen the awe on their faces,” Pednekar says with a smile. He adds that interaction with animals should be an integral part of the education system. “We learn about metamorphosis at school, but you can never forget the lesson ones you watch the insects undergo the change. In just 3 hours, one can touch more animals than they ever have. That is a life-changing experience,” Pednekar says.