Wolfgang Theuerkauf, a German who dedicated over 30 years of his life to the conservation of plants of southern India, passed away in Wayanad on Thursday. He was 66.
Affectionately called Swamy by his loved ones, Mr. Theuerkauf established the Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary at Alattil, near Periya, in north Wayanad, where he nurtured hundreds of thousands of plants endemic to the Western Ghats for over three decades without any external support. He is survived by his wife Leela and two children, a son and a daughter.
Mr. Theuerkauf was suffering from liver cirrhosis and was bedridden for the last couple of weeks. He breathed his last on Thursday night at the sanctuary. The last rites were performed on Friday at the sanctuary.
A German by birth, Mr. Theuerkauf decided to settle down in India in the late seventies when he was attracted by the teachings of Sree Narayana Guru. He was a disciple of Nataraja Guru, the successor of the spiritual leader. He was also closely associated with Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati.
Mr. Theuerkauf established a small ashram at Alattil and created the sanctuary as a Noah’s Ark for endemic plants on 50 five acres in 1981. The botanist was known for his works related to rainforest restoration activities, especially in the Mukkuruti forest in Karnataka.
He pioneered the cause of conserving endangered plants, organic farming and alternative energy mechanisms. In 1981, Mr. Theuerkauf became an Indian citizen and married Leela, a Malayali woman from Periya.A treasure trove
The sanctuary is a treasure trove for scholars, nature photographers and botanists across the globe.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has named the Gurukula as one of the 25 global centres of biodiversity. In 2006, he won the Whitley Award, the highest environment honour in the U.K., for the most effective conservation effort across the world.