How one man saved an island and brought its animals back

In a world where humans don’t always seem to value our struggling environment, it’s inspiring to see that even one person can make a sizable difference.

Jadav Payeng grew up on Majuli Island on the Brahmaputra River in Assam, India.

Once upon a time, it was an oasis, completely covered by dense forests. But as people cut down the island’s trees for their own profit, much of its wildlife was destroyed.

Then 37 years ago, Jadav decided he had to do something about it. So in 1979, he planted his first tree at a fateful spot—an activity he has continued to this day.

Now, he has turned an area of the island almost twice as large as New York City’s Central Park into a lush forest. It’s a true tropical paradise, and as the vegetation came back, so did the animals.

A herd of 115 elephants, as well as many rhinos, deer, and tigers call the island home now.


Much of Majuli Island once consisted of barren sandbars that were prone to erosion. But thanks to Jadav’s tree-planting efforts, a large swath of it has been transformed into a lush forest.

According to Jadav, returning the island’s natural beauty was like a dream. But his driving force was to bring back plants and animals to the island.

Jadav Payeng

Thanks to Jadav, 550 hectares of land that used to be sandbars are now forested and provide a home for elephants, deer, and tigers.


The film “Forest man,” about Jadav’s life work, was awarded the best documentary at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Watch the trailer here:

Is there anyone who deserves more respect and praise than Jadav?

Please share Jadav’s story if you also want people to know that they too can make a difference!

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