The Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary

The Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary and Garden is in Peria, in the Wayanad district of Kerala. To reach it, you have to travel along an unpaved road from Peria for a couple of kilometers through a jungle. The moment you enter the Gurukula you experience the tranquility of nature. There are evergreen forests on all sides. You can see numerous types of butterflies and birds, like the winged parakeet and Mountain Imperial Pigeon. There is the Niligiri Langur, the sambar deer and the necked mangoose. 
It is home to nearly 2,000 species of plants from the Western Ghats and is rich in fauna and flora. But there is a whiff of danger too. There are more than 20 varieties of snakes, of which seven are very poisonous.  

In the Gurkula, there is organic farming, animal husbandry, and alternate energy mechanisms. They have a programme called, ‘School in the Forest’ where schoolchildren and adults live and work in the sanctuary. A five-month programme costs Rs 50,000, which includes food, accommodation, instruction and travel.  

One man looks over this oasis. He is a German: Wolfgang Theuerkauf. He came here 40 years ago, fell in love with the place and stayed on. “On my travels to different parts of the world, I came to India and ended up in the Western Ghats,” says Theuerkauf. He bought a patch of land and started the Gurukula in 1981. “As this area was encircled by forests, no one was willing to look after it,” he says. “I decided to do so.”  

And Theuerkauf fell in love with the place. “The climate is fine and it is calm and peaceful,” he says. Initially, he had problems communicating with the locals, but he managed through sign language. “As for funds, my family in Germany also helped me,” says Theuerkauf. “We also received donations from some organizations.”  

But today, the sale of coffee, tapioca and spices has added to the income. About 10 acres of the 55-acre sanctuary is a garden and nursery, while the rest is restored forest land, fields, and grazing areas.
In 1981 Theuerkauf received Indian nationality and married a Malayali, Leelama, who is from Periya. They have a son, Santheeya and a daughter, Anna. Santheeya helps his parents in the garden while Anna is doing her masters in psychology in Bangalore. Suprabha Seshan, a Tamilian, has been assisting Theuerkauf for the past 16 years. Now, as Director of the sanctuary, Suprabha gives classes on the conservation of forests. 

“Today, nature has become a commodity to be used and exploited,” says Theuerkauf. “Commercialisation and consumerism have brought the fragile eco system to the verge of destruction. In an industrialized city or a country you may get all the luxuries, but no peace of mind or physical well-being. I always prefer places like this.”  

A few years ago, there were no discussions about conserving nature or preserving biodiversity. “But now for our very survival it is necessary, as you can understand from the changing climate of Kerala,” he says.  

Theuerkauf says that nature is under tremendous pressure. “Every plant and living organism is important,” he says. “Our aim is to conserve the nature and preserve the disappearing flora and fauna. We grow the plants seen everywhere to make people aware that these are the plants they neglect.”  

Theuerkauf also grows fishes. “My aim is not only to preserve but also to show the people different species of fish too,” he says. 

His work has received international recognition. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has labeled the Gurukulam as one of the 25 centres of bio-diversity in the world. 

In 2006 he won the ‘Whitley’ award, the biggest environment award in Britain for the most effective conservation efforts around the world.
So a German living in India is doing his best to preserve eco systems in one corner of this vast country.     


More by :  Subin Mananthavady

Top | Environment

Views: 3592      Comments: 5

Comment nature lover like to visit
please share details

Dr Prasad N Kulkarni
06-Aug-2020 05:47 AM

Comment Wonderful report on the sanctuary.
I will like to see it.
But do they have accommodation nearby ?1

Shashi joshi
05-Jan-2019 02:48 AM

Comment I had visited the sanctuary with a group of friends a couple of weeks ago. What I found was amazing. If one really loves himself, he must love nature. He must see himself as an extension of nature, not as a conquerer of nature. All talks of preservation of nature is futile unless and until one leads a simple life, which will extract from the nature only what is essential for his healthy life. But, unfortunately, this 'simple life' is what the government, industries and conglomerates dread. Where will they go if people reduce their consumption to just minimum. This sanctuary needs to be given more exposure to the outside world. I wish you success and I, for one, can always be counted in this praiseworthy effort. Thanks to the founder, Wolfgang, and the director Suprabha, who was kind enough to explain certain features of the sanctuary. John

John Fernandez
27-Apr-2014 04:28 AM

Comment sir can i kindly get his(wolfgang's) email id....
thank u....

25-Apr-2012 06:35 AM

Comment Thank u for ur report.it is very important for me as a master student in botany. I need to visit this place.plants are my god.thank u..

20-Jul-2011 00:10 AM

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