At Jamnagar, a billionaire’s passion creates the world’s largest rescue centre for animals - Hindustan Times
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At Jamnagar, a billionaire’s passion creates the world’s largest rescue centre for animals

Feb 27, 2024 09:20 AM IST

For several hours every day, Leelavati’s mahout applies medical oxygen on her burn wounds at the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HOT) chamber at the Elephant Hospital, India’s only such facility, nestled within the Green Belt of Reliance Industries’ Jamnagar Refinery Complex

Jamnagar: For several hours every day, Leelavati’s mahout applies medical oxygen on her burn wounds at the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HOT) chamber at the Elephant Hospital, India’s only such facility, nestled within the Green Belt of Reliance Industries’ Jamnagar Refinery Complex. Leelavati suffered severe burn injuries when she was trapped during a circus fire just before the Covid 19 pandemic. Since her move to Jamnagar though, and the treatment with advanced techniques such as HOT and laser therapy, only a small portion of Leelavati’s burn injuries are left to heal.

Jamnagar, India - Feb 26,2024 - Reliance Industries and Reliance Foundation announced the launch of their Vantara (Star of the Forest) programme, an umbrella initiative to focus on rescue, treatment, care and rehabilitation of injured, abused and threatened animals, both in India and abroad. Spread over 3000 acres within the Green Belt of Reliance’s Jamnagar Refinery Complex in Gujarat. Feb - 26,2024. (Photo by Raju Shinde/HT Photo)
Jamnagar, India - Feb 26,2024 - Reliance Industries and Reliance Foundation announced the launch of their Vantara (Star of the Forest) programme, an umbrella initiative to focus on rescue, treatment, care and rehabilitation of injured, abused and threatened animals, both in India and abroad. Spread over 3000 acres within the Green Belt of Reliance’s Jamnagar Refinery Complex in Gujarat. Feb - 26,2024. (Photo by Raju Shinde/HT Photo)

On Monday, Reliance Industries and Reliance Foundation announced the launch of their Vantara (Star of the Forest) programme, an umbrella initiative that focuses on rescue, treatment, care and rehabilitation of injured, abused and threatened animals, both from India and abroad.

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Conceived by Anant Ambani, director on the boards of RIL and Reliance Foundation, Vantara is spread over 3,000 acres that mimics a jungle for rescued wildlife, a large part of which is home to the Centre for Elephants. The 25,000 square feet elephant hospital has scientifically designed day and night enclosures, hydrotherapy pools, and a large jacuzzi for treating arthritic elephants.

Leelavati is among more than 200 elephants that are cared for 24x7 by a specialized and trained staff of over 500 people including vets, biologists, pathologists, nutritionists and naturalists. Vantara has also rehabilitated 450 mahouts from across India and has connected with nearby farmers to organically grow fodder to meet their daily requirement of 200 kgs of feed for the elephants. The Centre is equipped with portable x-ray machines, laser machines for diverse treatments, a fully equipped pharmacy, a pathology for all diagnostic tests, an imported elephant restraining device for diagnosis, hydraulic pulleys and cranes, hydraulic surgical table and a hyperbaric oxygen chamber for the Elephants. The hospital carries out cataract and endoscopic guided surgeries (with a first of its kind specially designed endoscopy equipment).

Vantara has also established a Green Zoological, Rescue and Rehabilitation Kingdom (GZRRK) of over 650 acres (within the 3000-acre premises) with more than 2000 animals across 43 species are cared for. It has a staff strength of more than 2,100, and so far, the GZRRK has rescued about 200 leopards from all over India which have suffered injuries in road accidents or man-wild conflicts. It has rescued over 1,000 crocodiles from a severely overcrowded and congested facility in Tamil Nadu, as well as animals from hunting lodges in Africa, those under threat of euthanasia in Slovakia, severely distressed animals from facilities in Mexico.

The hospital & medical research facility at the GZRRK —separate from the elephant hospital-- is equipped with the most advanced MRI, CT scan machines, X-ray units, and equipment for ultrasound, endoscopy, dental scalar, lithotripsy, dialysis, OR1 technology that enables live videoconferences for surgeries and blood plasma separator.

The 28-year-old Ambani scion took time off from the hectic preparations for his star-studded pre-wedding festivities slated for March 1-3 in Jamnagar, to give the media a tour of his passion project. He derives his love for animals, he said, from his mother Nita Ambani and his paternal and maternal grandfathers.

“What started as a passion for me at a very young age has become a mission. We are focused at protecting critically endangered species native to India. We also want to restore vital habitats and address urgent threats to species and establish Vantara as a leading-edge conservation programme,” said Ambani, who is spearheading Reliance’s renewable energy business in Jamnagar, and, in that capacity, is responsible for leading the company’s journey to become a net carbon zero by 2035.

“Vantara is a combination of the age-old ethical value of compassion with the excellence of modern scientific and technological professionalism.”

GZRRK has started conservation breeding programs for about seven endangered species of Indian and foreign animals to save them from extinction. The objective is to create a viable reserve to repopulate endangered species in their native habitats.

“Vantara also aims to partner with the Zoo Authority of India and other relevant government organisations in improving all the 150-plus zoos in India in terms of training, capacity building and animal care infrastructure,” said Ambani. “In the next three or four years, we also plan establish a full-fledged university to train wildlife veterinarians, for capacity building and conservation.”

While the Elephant Centre, which started taking shape 10-12 years ago starting with creating around 600-acre forest, will not be open to public, there are plans to open GZRRK once the animals settle down. Vantara has also taken part in foreign rescue missions in countries like Mexico and Venezuela. Recently, in response to a call from Central American zoo authorities, it brought in several big animals for rehabilitation.

The Vantara programme has worked with international organisations like Venezuelan National Foundation of Zoos and associated with organisations like the Smithsonian and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In India, it collaborates with the National Zoological Park, Assam State Zoo, Nagaland Zoological Park, Sardar Patel Zoological Park, ensuring that all rescue and rehabilitation missions are undertaken under strict legal and regulatory frameworks.

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