Interview mit einer Pferderetterin

Posted: 24. Oktober 2018

Manchmal überrascht mich das Universum. Möglichkeiten und Chancen erscheinen wie aus dem Nichts zu genau dem Zeitpunkt, wenn man sie am meisten braucht. Vor einigen Monaten stand fest, dass ich Ende November nach Indien reisen würde, um eine Fotoreise für einen potentiellen Workshop zu testen. Zur gleichen Zeit stolperte ich auf Instagram über einen ganz besonderen Account, der direkt zu meinem Herzen sprach: The Backwater Sanctuary

Ohne groß nachzudenken schrieb ich über ihre Website eine Anfrage. Ich wollte mehr über die Arbeit erfahren und schlug vor, ein Interview auf diesem Blog zu veröffentlichen und fragte nach einem Treffen, wenn ich in Indien sein würde. Zoha, die Gründerin der Auffangstation, beeindruckte mich gleich mit ihrer unglaublichen Herzlichkeit – das ist überhaupt nicht selbstverständlich für eine „fremde“ Anfrage. Mit diesem Interview möchte ich euch diese beeindruckende Frau und ihre Arbeit näher bringen. Die Arbeit, die sie in Indien für verstoßene und kranke Pferde, Ponys und Esel leistet ist unglaublich. Ich habe das Interview nicht übersetzt, damit nichts „Lost in Translation“ ist – nichts in der Übersetzung verloren geht. Ein großer Grund für diesen Blogeintrag ist, Aufmerksamkeit zu schaffen. Nicht nur für das Leid der Tiere auf dieser Welt, sondern vorallem für die Menschen, die alles opfern – Zeit, Geld, Nerven, Ressourcen – um diesen Tieren zu helfen. Das sind die Menschen, die unsere Welt zu einem besseren Ort machen. Wenn ihr Zoha und ihre Helfer unterstützen möchtet, wenn euch das folgende Interview gefallen hat und ebenfalls euer Herz berührt – zeigt es! Teilt es auf Facebook, auf Instagram … schafft Aufmerksamkeit und Bewusstsein – und vielleicht habt ihr sogar einen Euro übrig, um ihn hier auf ihrer Website (www.thebackwatersanctuary.com) zu spenden.

Ich freu mich darauf, Zoha und die Mitwirkenden der Auffangstation in wenigen Wochen auf meiner Indienreise persönlich kennenzulernen und eine Reportage über ihre Auffangstation zu machen. Dies ist ein Weg, den ich zukünftig öfter einschlagen möchte, und ich kann mir nichts besseres vorstellen, als diesen Schritt bei Zoha zu beginnen. Aber jetzt genug – viel Spaß mit dem Interview! Ich bin mir sicher, euch inspiriert diese Frau genauso sehr, wie mich.


Das Interview:

Let’s start with an introduction – who are you and how did you become the founder of a Rescue Sanctuary for horses and donkeys – The Backwater Sanctuary – in India?

Funny story! I’m actually from the Royal Families of Bhopal, Pataudi and Hyderabad in India. More importantly, I work in my family business, my father and brother own and run wildlife resorts in South India. We also run safari operations in East and South Africa (with our own camps in Tanzania). Growing up in the jungles of India and Africa, I was always surrounded by wildlife and so naturally developed a deep love for animals. I do have a special fondness for equines though and finally decided to do something with it.
I founded this sanctuary in hope to rescue as many abandoned / neglected equines as I can possibly manage, given monetary and land limitations. This in my personal project, funded entirely by me and my husband (whatever little we can afford) and with the help of my few amazing followers!

Why did you specialize in horses, ponies and donkeys?

We had a couple of ponies in our first wildlife resort that I used to ride and take care of when I was little. Later on, when I was about 7 years old, I took up horse riding. So for as long as I can remember I’ve been around equines and have had plenty of opportunities to bond with them from a young age. I guess that developed into a passion and now here we are :)

Did you always want to open a sanctuary or did the idea came up along the way?

It all started with Tsavo, my first horse. He came to us out of the blue (our manager brought him to camp one day). He was extremely battered and unkept but he was (and still is) the sweetest most gentle horse I’d ever met. I instantly fell in love and over time we developed a very special bond. Watching him transform, both emotionally and physically, into the absolute beauty that he is today was overwhelming in the best possible sense. It soon became clear that this is what I wanted to do. Needless to say I’m lucky enough to have a family that runs wildlife resorts with plenty of spare land that I could use. It’s the only way I could have taken this forward.

Where do your rescued animals come from? What kind of rescues to do have?

The Sanctuary is relatively new (we only started in March this year). At the moment we have 15 rescues including 5 horses, 4 donkeys, 5 ponies and a brand new filly!

Tsavo, my first rescue, a thoroughbred gelding, was a race horse in Mangalore (about 200 km away). As you know, once horses are retired from the races they become almost worthless. He was sent to a local riding school where he was badly neglected and abused. When he arrived at the sanctuary he was severely underweight and covered in all sorts of wounds. Now he’s unrecognisable. :)

The four other horses, Boris, Hannibal, Africa and Zelda were also race horses. They were bought by a rich family who clearly knew nothing about horses and were kept in the worst possible conditions. They were locked in their stable for days on end with no food, water or exercise. They were so starved and malnourished that they even got into a habit of eating their own poo.
They were rescued from a farm house in Shimoga (nearly 300 km away) on August 23rd. We’re still treating their wounds and have started them on the proper required horse feed. They should be healthy and gorgeous in no time!

Our first pony, Savannah, used to be a cart pony close to Mysore, not too far from us. She was so badly mistreated/abused and came to us in such an awful state I honestly didn’t think she would survive. She’s a little fighter though and with Tsavo by her side she somehow pulled through. She’s doing beautifully now at the sanctuary.

LegStump, our first donkey rescue and the most adorable little sweetheart, was rescued from the local village just 5 km away. I was on my way back to the city and I saw him hobbling on three legs on the side of the road, absolutely miserable. His front right hoof had been melted nearly clean off when he accidentally stepped in a pool of burning plastic. When I first approached him he shoved his face right into my hands and that was that – he came home with us that evening.

Similarly, I found our other 3 donkeys (Luigi, Peach and DonkeyKong) abandoned on the side of the highway about 50 km away. With the illegal trade of donkey hide booming in China (their skin is used to make medicine) abandoned donkeys here, like these three, are at risk of being stolen only to be killed and skinned.

Frodo, our second rescue pony, has a broken and badly deformed leg (though that doesn’t slow him down at all!) He was found on a main road in Tamil Nadu (a neighbouring state) by another rescue organisation. We were asked to foster him for a few months until they set up their own shelter for large animals, after which he’ll return to them. He’s brilliantly happy at the sanctuary now, already inseparable from the new horses and causing havoc with the mares! He’s clearly over ambitious and desperately needs to be gelded.


Lastly we have Sawyer, Pickett and Piper, our newest rescues. I was back in the city when I got a call from a friend about an abandoned little pony on the side of the road. Of course we went over immediately. Turns out the poor sweetheart was blind in one eye and very skittish around people and could have at any moment bolted into oncoming traffic. After further investigation we found the owners, a couple of kids, who kept a whole bunch of other ponies in a filthy makeshift stables on the side of the road. They were obviously very unkept and constantly chased after by other kids who would throw rocks and stones. That’s how Sawyer lost his eye. I would have taken all if I could, but the boys refused. We did manage to convince them to sell us Sawyer (the blind pony), Piper (she was pregnant and we refused to leave her there) and Pickett, the weakest of the lot. We kept them in our house in the city until we could sort our transport and a paddock for them at the Sanctuary. They’re now all safe and sound and Piper has even given birth! Due to her poor upkeep in the past, the foal was born premature. After lots of love and care though we now have a very healthy, very adorable little filly, Amelie!

How did the current flooding situation affect you / the animals of the region?

Fortunately, we’re located just outside the flood zone so aside from heavy monsoon rains, we’re okay. I can’t say the same for areas close by however. Kerala and Coorg have been hit pretty badly, with over a million people displaced. I can’t even imagine the situation with the poor animals. Unfortunately many pet owners have abandoned their pets, leaving them behind in flooded houses with no food and clean water. The local animal welfare organisations have helped rescue and relocate most of the dogs and cats. We have put out word that our doors are open to any equines or even cows that are affected by the floods and are in need of temporary shelter. We’re currently on stand by for potential rescues.

How many animals do you and your volunteers currently take care of?

It’s mainly just me at the moment taking care of the animals, my volunteers come and go. I do of course have a care taker who feeds and grooms the animals when I’m not around and I’m currently in process of hiring a permanent manager for the Sanctuary. In total we care for 5 horses, 4 donkeys and 6 ponies. Not to mention the 20+ cats and 2 stray dogs that we’ve adopted. We also care for other strays that sometimes wander in and out of camp.

Will you keep the animals after they got better, do you search for new homes or what are your plans?

These 10 rescues will remain with me forever. We’ve got the space and resources to care for them and I’d rather they stay here with me where I can keep a close eye at all times. They’ve been through enough already and deserve a quiet retirement. (Also, I’m quite attached now so I would be heartbroken if I had to give them away!) 

Any new rescues now onward however will have the option to be adopted, in order to make room for more rescues later on. We will of course keep them for as long as it takes bring them back to health and then choose very carefully who they go to.

Foto: Ashish Parmar

If someone wants to support your sanctuary, what are the ways to do so?

First and foremost, spread the word! Through our sanctuary and our rescues we hope to increase awareness on the level of abuse of equines in India. That’s the first step in fighting for equine welfare. 

Of course you can also contribute in the form of donations and sponsorships, which is how we fund our operations. For more details on that you can visit our website: www.thebackwatersanctuary.com


On your instagram account you said the pony Savannah was the most difficult rescue so far – tell us why.

Savannah’s rescue was traumatic.
She was owned by the cruelest of men, who had beaten her silly and worked her to the ground. She’s an elderly pony too, pushing 20 years now, which made the recovery process even harder.
She arrived at the Sanctuary on 25th March 2018, at 2 am. They had deliberately brought her in late at night to try to hide the hideous state she was in. While transporting her to us, instead of having her stand (as they usually do) on the back of a trailer, she was roped down tightly on her side, unable to move at all, for 6 long hours on bumpy roads. She had bitten down hard on her tongue from all the pain and stress, which caused an unusual swelling in the back of her tongue. As a result she found it difficult to eat solid food or graze at all. We kept her going on mashed carrots, beans and rice (yep, rice!) mixed into a paste with water and electrolytes, which she just about managed to swallow. After a week or so the swelling subsided and we upgraded her to horse feed (oats and bran) which was new to her (the previous owners would feed her their leftover human food). She loved it. Within a month she was already much better. 

When she arrived her left eye was swollen the size of a baseball and completely bruised black and blue. She couldn’t open it at all. Her front left leg was swollen and leaking puss from an untreated infected wound (what looked like a fat nail that had pierced her more than an inch deep). She was in a world of pain and too weak to stand for the first few days. The wound on her leg took about two weeks to heal (we must have drained a gallon of puss from it) and she only started walking normally again, with no limp, about a month later. It took a barrel of emotional strength, from us and her, to get her to pull through. Tsavo, our beautiful gelding, also helped with moral support and is probably the reason she recovered so quickly! The two are now inseparable.

What was your most rewarding moment in the sanctuary so far?

Watching Savannah transform into a happy and healthy pony, I guess. All the recoveries have been infinitely rewarding in their own ways!


You are also the Executive Director of The Bison Resort – this sounds like a full-time job, how do you manage to find time for the rescues?


I stepped down from ED after starting the sanctuary 😬 I am still very involved in the family business. My rescues are first priority now of course, I don’t leave their side for the first month or so until they’re completely settled. We do have a lot of down time when the animals have recovered fully and have a routine going. That’s when I jump into helping out wherever I can with our resort here, The Bison Resort, as well as our safari operations in Africa (Africa under Canvas).

If you had one wish – what would you use it for?

More land, more rescues!

What do you think must happen so people would treat animals with more respect?

First and foremost spreading awareness on how animals are so badly mistreated. This should hopefully evoke empathy towards them and encourage change. Also the people who often neglect and abuse their animals need to be called out and the rest of us need to come together to fight against any kind of work that involves animal abuse/neglect.

Do you have any further plans for the sanctuary?

Indeed! I’m working on opening a second sanctuary where we have some unused land close by. All 12 acres will be solely dedicated to the sanctuary and our rescues. 


What are your wishes and hopes for the future?

That we grow enough to take in any abused/neglected equines that need a home. The ultimate goal is to have enough space to never have to say no to any potential rescues!

If there is anything you would like to be said – you can add it here.

Thank you for doing this!!


(You want to help? Share the interview, tell your friends about her work, follow the Sanctuary on Instagram, sponsor a rescue or donate on their Website!)

Du möchtest aktiv werden und Zoha helfen? Teile dieses Interview, erzähle deinen Freunden von ihr, folge ihr auf Instagram, übernehme ein Sponsoring für ein Tier oder spende einen Betrag auf ihrer Website!

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