May 8, 2017

The Circle of Life

Socks (collared) with her pack and pups
Socks (collared) with her pack and pups

With the first three months of 2017 having been intensely busy, raising funds and awareness for the survival of Zimbabwe's painted dogs has never been more urgent.

For some months the team in Zimbabwe had been concerned about the shifting territory of the Nyamandlovu pack, which saw the dogs spending more than 50 per cent of their time outside of the relative safety of Hwange National Park (HNP) where the teams patrol and remove thousands of snares left by poachers.

The team tried everything to encourage the dogs back into the park, including deploying a bio boundary of scent from other painted dogs which aimed to create the impression that the territory is already occupied. While they had some success with this, it has not been totally effective and the Nyamandlovu pack continued to leave the park again and again, straying into unprotected territory where the team cannot track and protect them effectively.

“To try and better protect them the team deployed the anti-poaching units, that you and DSWF fund, into those areas to keep them as snare-free as possible,” explains DSWF CEO, Oliver Smith. “Knowing they had to do more, the team also fitted protective collars to the alpha male, Browny and alpha female, Socks. Fortunately, they were just in time.”

The pack had not been seen for over a week when news arrived that one of the collared dogs had a wound on its neck.

Anxious to locate the pack and complete a head count, which is easier said than done with 12+ dogs, the team were relieved to discover that the pack was still 16 strong. All four collared dogs were present, plus the other three adults and nine remaining pups. But, the alpha female Socks has a wound on her neck.

Although Socks' collar had been twisted at a strange angle and was damaged; a clear sign that she had been caught in a snare, thankfully her wound was not serious and it did not require treatment. The collar, designed to prevent snares from strangling the dogs, had done its job, it had saved her life.

Alpha female Socks, who turns seven this year and, all being well, will have her fifth litter in 2017 making her the most successful female that the team have ever tracked.

It is only with your help that Socks survived. Without you we could not fund the anti-poaching units which since January, have made more than 160 patrols and recovered more than 500 snares, or buy the anti-snare collars which protect these precious dogs so successfully.

Thank you for saving Socks and the generation of dogs she has helped nurture. 

Socks with her pups before she was collared
Socks with her pups before she was collared
Mar 17, 2017

A world without boundaries

On the banks of the Brahmaputra River
On the banks of the Brahmaputra River

Tigers, like most wild animals, have no concept of boundaries. For thousands of years they have moved across the planet’s landscapes seeking food, shelter and new territories. For many, their migratory routes are dictated by the seasons and this is true of the tigers in Kaziranga National Park. During the dry season they grow fat on the alluvial flood plains where prey is plenty and when the floods come they, with many other species, move to the safety of higher ground.

Tigers are excellent swimmers and for the tigers of Kaziranga it’s an important skill. The park’s northern boundary is formed by the Brahmaputra River; the tenth largest river on earth it flows from the Himalaya’s through China, India and Bangladesh out into the Bay of Bengal. It is a river that connects a series of important and precious tiger populations. Studies of the tiger’s migratory routes continue and there is evidence that the mighty Brahmaputra holds little fear for the tigers that cross it using the many river islands as stepping stones in their passage to the northern bank.

This movement of tigers is vital for big cat survival; as they reach the age of two the cubs disperse in search of territories and mates of their own ensuring that their DNA stays robust by breeding away from close family. Protecting these migratory routes and wildlife corridors is as important as protecting the parks themselves.

On the far side of the Brahmaputra, 114km northwest of Kaziranga by car lies Orang National Park which became India’s 49th Tiger Reserve in 2016. And there’s good news from Orang as recent studies look likely to herald the park as having the highest density of tigers in India, surpassing the record once held by its larger neighbour, Kaziranga.

That tiger populations in this area continue to thrive is thanks in part to your support which helps fund our work across this region’s important tiger landscape that embraces Kaziranga, Orang and Manas National Park a further 200km upstream.  With growing pressure from human activities, maintaining the migratory routes is vital and forms a key part in the education and conservation programmes that we fund.  And, during the seasonal floods, it is your support that helps provide extra staff and volunteers to work around the clock to ensure the safe passage of wildlife, including tigers, from the parks to higher ground. With many animals having to cross busy roads, maintaining road blocks and speed reduction programmes while also keeping a vigil for poachers who take advantage of the animals’ use of traditional paths, is key.

In a world with so many man-made boundaries we’d like to thank you again for helping us maintain the connectivity that is so vital to tiger survival.

The precious biodiversity that we work to protect
The precious biodiversity that we work to protect

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Feb 21, 2017

How building morale and boosting skills is helping to protect wild tigers in Thailand

Training is helping to boost morale c.Eric Ash
Training is helping to boost morale c.Eric Ash

As a source country for high-value species like tigers, Thailand's rangers have been facing an increase in armed poachers willing to do anything to secure precious wildlife products for the illegal trade.

"The traditional five-man anti-poaching teams regularly encountered gangs with up to fifty or more poachers and, in 2015, at least seven rangers in Thailand lost their lives during such encounters," reports our man in the field.

Emerging from this crisis came the concept for a highly trained, mobile, rapid response unit of rangers. Working closely with the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), our funding helped create a new unit called 'Hasadin' (elephant in Sanskrit) that is deployed throughout the forest complex that is home to over 300 wild tigers. The unit now responds to urgent, large-scale enforcement issues where existing enforcement was lacking, providing added protection for precious tigers and a strong, zero-tolerance deterrent to would-be poachers.

"We feel empowered by the training we received," says one of the rangers. "We now work more efficiently, more safely and achieve higher success rates."

In their first operation the Hasadin unit successfully arrested five poachers and emerged with a haul of illegal products, chainsaws, weapons and poachers provisions. Critically, the success gave the team a renewed sense of pride and of hope and boosted morale.

While the teams are making encouraging progress there is still a lot ot be done in the fight to save Thailand's wildlife. But, with your help, we can continue to provide more training and better equipment to build capacity and expand the units so that these amazing men can in turn protect the tigers that we love.

A rare tiger caught on camera trap in Thailand
A rare tiger caught on camera trap in Thailand

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