The Backwater Sanctuary
Founded by Zoha Jung Nambiar in 2018, The Backwater Sanctuary is a non profit committed to the successful rehabilitation of horses, ponies & donkeys suffering from abandonment, abuse or neglect, and providing them a safe home for retirement. Through the Sanctuary and with the help of their rescues, they hope to increase awareness of the level of abuse of equines in India.
I would have never expected that my path as an equine photographer leads me to a place where the stables have to be leopard-proof. Yes, you read right: leopard-proof. But here I was, in the middle of a beautiful jungle near Nagarhole Nationalpark in India. During the day the rescue horses of The Backwater Sanctuary are able to roam freely around the camp or on their big pasture at the Back Water and surroundings, but at night they all have trade their freedom for safety. When you live in the jungle you have to learn to co-exist with everything that was there before you. This also means to respect all animals - including predators - when sharing a habitat with them. We are all in this together.
Zoha and her team pours their entire heart and time into healing both physical and mental wounds of the animals. The stories of the horses are shocking, heartbreaking, but so important to share. For example Boris, who is a former race horse which was owned by a family that didn’t know how to treat horses right. He's my favorite (but don't tell the other horses). Another pony, Sawyer, lost his eyesight because children chased him down with stones. Another touching story is that of the donkey „Legstump“, whose front leg is misshapen because his hoof was melted in the fire of burning plastic. He passed away in 2020 - after some happy and fulfilling years at the sanctuary and after he touched so many hearts, such as mine.
There are several more animals, each equally important, and I want to tell all of their stories, because they all deserve to be heard. But before doing so I want to thank Zoha for introducing me into her world, letting me shadow her an her team with my camera during my stays, trusting me in creating photos that truly show the fascinating characters of her beloved animals. Let me describe Zoha in a very simple way: in my teen years she would have been the kind of woman I would have looked up to and said “I hope I’m gonna be like her when I grow up”. Despite her superhero abilities, even Zoha couldn’t run a whole sanctuary by herself. Many more superhumans make sure to support the animals in their healing process and have developed their own unique bond with them. It’s because of the restless efforts of Abhi and many more that give the saying „Teamwork makes the dream work“ true meaning. All of this could not exist without each of you - from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all you do.
If you want to learn more about the sanctuary and its rescues, please visit their Instagram and Website.
The photos below were created during several visits between 2018 - 2022.
Scroll through the overview or open the photos by clicking on them
Boris, Zelda & Hannibal through the years
Bach - King of the Backwaters
Life at the sanctuary