Gratitude community started in 1974 with the reclamation of the land, erosion control, building, tree planting in the garden belt at the periphery of the planned city. It soon developed into a small dairy which took care of immediate needs. At the same time the study of birds by Dietra, which included retrieving and rescuing them, became an important preoccupation. 136 species, including the water birds of the lakes around Auroville, plus the migrating birds were registered.
This interest for animals, in particular, birds, brought the idea to reintroduce the peacock. After several attempts and failures there was finally success. By now there are approximately 800 specimens in Auroville itself. The main nesting ground for them and a gathering place (sometimes upto 50 peacocks a day) has been at the Gratitude Animal Farm. Apart from the local birds and animals, the “great Indian hornbill” has found a home here.
The concern and interest in nature led to the creation of a magazine on wild life and ecology by Dietra called “Shikra” which was financed and published through SAIIER. There is a plan to publish 7 in full form.
The book and the farm itself with its dedications for nature and beauty have attracted the educational community in and around Auroville. There has been a flow of visitors, not only of the winged ones, but all Auroville children have spent time at the farm with their parents or teachers, alone or in groups. Many have come solely to meet “Arturo the Amazon blue” a parrot from Guatemala, one of the oldest Aurovilians. Gratitude Animal Farm has become a “must do” for the various educational institutions not only of Auroville but also the Ashram, the French Lycee in Pondicherry, and the village schools around Auroville.