Jul 13, 2015

Meeting the team protecting Kaziranga's wildlife

Meeting the weaving cooperative
Meeting the weaving cooperative

It's not everyday that the chance arises to get out into the field and meet the people who are working so hard to protect endangered wildlife. So, it was with huge excitement that I set off for Kaziranga in Assam, Northern India, this summer to find out first hand how the team are getting on - and how they are using your precious donations.

The thing that hit me most was the welcome; it was so warm and SO appreciative of what we - the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, our TigerTime campaign and you the donors - provide in the way of support. For people who have very little their generosity of spirit, their kindness and their complete dedication to the wildlife they live so closely to was humbling. 

I met the villagers who have signed up to the alternative livelihoods schemes we run - the weavers, the goat and pig herders - all keen to create sustainable incomes that keep them and their families away from the temptation of poaching. 

And the temptation is huge. International gangs of organized criminals with plenty of cash and buyers calling for supplies of rhino horn and tiger parts are all too ready to convert the locals into criminals too. What is amazing is the dignity with which such poor communities turn their backs on poaching and seek a safer life, for everyone. 

I met one group of the Village Defense Force, local men who come together armed with no more than a stick and a mobile phone to patrol the borders of the national park to defend the tigers and rhinos from poachers. They run two shifts 6pm-12pm and 12pm-6am. They asked for badges - so that people would know they were on offical business - and they asked for raincoats. Thankfully, because of your support this is something we can provide.

I also met Jorba, the amazing sniffer dog I've written about previously. And, much to my delight I met his new collegaue in training, Babli, and we discussed the excitement of a third dog that will be joining the squad later this year - again, thanks to your generous donations.

And then we visited the schools. Every year the team visits all 70 schools around the edge of Kaziranga National Park and helps the children and their families understand the value of wildlife and the importance of protecting it. The children sat transfixed and then happily joined in with sharing the papier mache animal heads and welcoming tigers to their school.

There was much, much more to the visit but the overriding message that I picked up was that yes, it's really tough fending off the advances of poaching gangs - both in terms of resisting their monetary offers and their fire power - but that working together, sharing experiences and a passion for wildlife, means that we can resist them. More than that, we can challenge them and defend against them and we will not, ever, let them win.

With the Village Defence Force
With the Village Defence Force
Setting vital camera traps
Setting vital camera traps
Making friends with tigers
Making friends with tigers
Jorba and handler Anil Das
Jorba and handler Anil Das

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Apr 24, 2015

Dogged determination helps stop poachers

Jorba with his handler, Anil Das, on patrol
Jorba with his handler, Anil Das, on patrol

Often called 'man's best friend' one dog is turning into an amazing friend of Kaziranga's endangered wildlife too.

Jorba, a Belgian Malinois trained to track and detect wildlife products such as tiger and leopard skin and bones, bear bile, ivory and rhino horn, has been picking up the scent of poachers and helping his handler, Anil and the team in Assam bring them to justice.

“Jorba is making a huge contribution towards controlling wildlife crime, sending a strong message to poachers and smugglers that we have increased our efforts to track them down,” reports project director Bibhab Talukdar.

Recently, when a couple of camera traps used for monitoring tiger movements went missing in the national park it was Jorba who discovered them thrown into the river. Retrieved from the water the images on the cameras were intact and clearly showed the faces of two poachers. Reward posters were put up and the culprits were caught.

"Introduced in 2011, Jorba has helped strengthen the anti-poaching activities in this hugely important area but we'd love more help, more trained dogs and handlers to help us gather evidence and deter poaching," adds Bibhab.

Thank you for your amazing support to-date. Could you help us strengthen the team giving Jorba a work mate and the precious tigers of Kaziranga a fighting chance of survival?

Jan 27, 2015

All-India census shows Kaziranga's tiger numbers remain strong

A Kaziranga tiger caught on camera for the census
A Kaziranga tiger caught on camera for the census

We are delighted to tell everyone who supports this amazing project that the recent preliminary report of the all-India tiger census  published on January 20 has shown a thriving population of 125 Bengal tigers in Kaziranga. While 125 seems such a small number it presents almost six percent of India's wild tigers and a strong and viable breeding population. 

The number is definitely increasing and the census (which only records animals older than 1.5 years) is supported by an increase in cub sightings. Twenty cubs have been seen in different pockets of the national park giving a very positive indication of tigers not only surviving but thriving in Kaziranga.

On a sadder note the rare one-horned Indian rhino that shares the tigers home here is not faring so well with three already lost to poachers in January. 

It is very difficult to separate the survival of one key species from another, for while there are poachers in the park all are vulnerable. It is estimated that every tiger requires a breeding prey population of 500 animals in its territory as a 'food bank'  that is why we need to continue to maintain our vigilant park patrols and equip the park rangers and anti-poaching teams to ensure no further loss of wildlife occurs including among the all-important prey species. 

The delicate balance that the tiger - as a keystone species - creates in its landscape needs our deligent protection.

Thank you again for your amazing support which helps us protect the precious wildlife in Kaziranga National Park. It is thanks to you that wild tiger numbers are doing so well. 

 
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