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Jan 2, 2020

New Year, New Beginnings?

Children gather round for education packs
Children gather round for education packs

Happy New Year to all our supporters, we’re certainly hoping that 2020 will be a great year for wild tiger conservation, with your help.

In our October project report, we reminded you how some amazing help from our supporters had enabled us to help 180 children living with wild tigers in Bandhavgarh to go to school in 2019-20 because we were able to provide education packs with the basic writing materials and books needed to make this a reality. This took the total number of children we have helped since 2010 to 2200 across 25 different villages. With more than 70 villages around Bandhavgarh, we still have a lot of work to do.

People always ask me “How can providing education packs be considered wild tiger conservation”? They back up their questions with statements like “I want to help to save wild tigers, not children,” or “I want to donate to a project which will help wild tigers not send children to school!” I understand that on the face of it, it’s not unreasonable to not connect education packs with wild tiger conservation, but essentially it is a fundamental part of what we do. Imagine for a moment what would happen if a child in the developed world never went to school: he or she would reach adulthood without the ability to read or write, it is likely that they also would find difficulty in articulating conversation with their educated peers and potential employers, that is if indeed they had any employment options at all. Their prospects wouldn’t be good at all….

Now think about the same situation in rural India, the uneducated child who becomes an illiterate adult with little or no chance of securing a job. Add into the mix the fact that the youngster will possibly get married at 14 and soon after have a family to feed, as well as themselves! Where will they find the money and food to survive? In short they have a couple of options: it is likely that they will have been working in the fields of their parents’ farm since they were 4 or 5 years old so they’ll know about growing crops but the problem is where? If their parents didn’t have any land, it is more likely that they will have collected mahua flowers (for Indian alcohol) or Tendu leaves (for Indian tobacco) or firewood from a very young age in the very forests where tigers and leopards roam, if they haven’t been killed by a wild animal whilst undertaking these dangerous activities. They need to collect around 2000 flowers or 5000 Tendu leaves just to earn about 100 rupees (roughly £1.10/US$1.50); the wood which they cut down in the forests may be sold illegally but is most likely used to create fires for heating and cooking. You may think, well this is ok they have employment and something to eat and in part you’d be right, however, picking mahua flowers and Tendu leaves is seasonal and the collection period lasts for just a few weeks per year after that the income source dries up. Crop growing is also seasonal and requires the cutting down of trees and clearing of forest habitat to make space for crops to grow, if the youngster doesn’t have much money they won’t be able to buy seeds nor recover when their crops are eaten by marauding wildlife. In such cases, uneducated villages often turn to extreme measures to get the money needed to feed their families. These measures include: snaring herbivores to sell the meat, but this reduces the tigers’ prey base leading to increased human-tiger conflict when the tigers predate livestock instead of native prey; poisoning or snaring (poaching) tigers so that they can make some money from selling the tigers’ body parts and skins, and stop the predation of livestock from their village; selling information about the movement of wild tigers to poaching gangs or providing accommodation for poachers so that they can integrate in the village and not stand out when they move through the forest. So as you can see, a lack of education threatens both the life of wild tigers and their forest habitat https://goto.gg/32565.

Furthermore, we have observed that not only do educated children have better employment prospects; they marry later; have fewer children and thus reduce the future impact on the precious forest resources of the wild tigers’ habitat. So we can say we a good deal of confidence that providing education packs to send children to school does have a direct impact on wild tiger conservation.

It hardly seems like yesterday, but 3 months have elapsed since our last report and it’s now a worrying 7 months since we had sufficient funds to help the rural children from the poorest communities surrounding wild tigers to have the opportunities afforded to them by a proper education.  In 2020, we want to provide new beginnings for at least 250 children living with wild tigers, but we can’t do this without your help. We want the poorest children to go to school where they can learn to read, write and equally importantly learn about wildlife, nature and conservation. We want these children to have a chance to grow up and become protectors of wild tigers rather than have a lifestyle which is entirely dependent on encroachment or destruction of wild tiger habitat for survival. We had hoped to be able to fund some scholarship places at a new school where these rural children would have an opportunity to not just learn to read and write, but also to learn how to read and write in English as well as their native Hindi. This is still something which we would like to do, but without donations it is just a dream, an aspirational target. As we stand, all of the donations we have received for educational resources to date have been used to help the 2200 children we’ve helped already. If we cannot raise new funds, then another generation of young children will miss out on education and could become future tiger poachers. If you want to help us to stop this now, please donate £20/US$26 and help us to send 4 children living with wild tigers to school: https://goto.gg/32565. If 63 of our followers did this today, we could help at least 250 children this year, which would be amazing!

If all our supporters could do the same, maybe we’ll be able to break down some barriers for children living with wild tigers whose parents simply can’t afford to send them to school because the cost of basic writing materials is too high. We’d like to ensure that when we’re old and grey we can tell the next generation of children and grandchildren that there are still tigers in the wild and that because of education there will be wild tigers for many years to come: https://goto.gg/32565.

Don’t forget: when we provide education packs for children living with wild tigers we are reducing the risk of future tiger habitat destruction AND ensuring that these children have the opportunity to become future tiger protectors.

I would like to thank you for your generosity and support on behalf of the wild tigers, which we are keeping safe; on behalf of the children who we have helped to get an education (and their families who have food on their tables); and on behalf of the wider tiger community in Bandhavgarh, which benefits from providing books and writing equipment for inclusion in the education packs we distribute. Happy New Year.

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Nov 27, 2019

Bravery, Challenges and Woodcutters

It is harder to see wild tigers in the mist
It is harder to see wild tigers in the mist

Firstly, can I start by thanking you all for your continued amazing support for the wild tigers and our work since our October 2019 project report. I am delighted to say that because of your help our patrollers have manged to keep Bandhavgarh’s wild tigers safe for another 2 months. This brings us to 53 months without a wild tiger death due to retaliatory poisoning and 38 months since the last wild tiger poaching incident. It is not a time for complacency, because our success has helped Bandhavgarh’s tiger population to double in recent years. Unfortunately, this is music to the ears of poachers too. With more tigers, the incidence of human-tiger and tiger-tiger conflict also increases so over the next few months and years we will have more, not less work to do.  

Those of you who follow us on social media may have seen recently that one of our senior anti-poaching patrollers, Vidya, had an accident recently. Vidya fell causing a complex brake of the bones in her right arm, she required surgery and had to make the 4.5 hour journey to the nearest hospital, in Jabalpur, which could operate. She was in agony all the way as many of the roads are still dusty bumpy tracks en-route. Vidya had two metal plates inserted in her arm to repair the brake and now is sporting a cast which covers three quarters of her arm. She spent a few nights in hospital before returning to Bandhavgarh where she was determined to re-join the patrolling after a few days recovery! Such is the commitment of our patrollers. Vidya returned to Jabalpur today to have her stitches removed, and we will be encouraging her to ensure that she is fully recovered before she resumes her patrolling duties when she returns to Bandhavgarh. I’m sure that like me, you all will wish Vidya a speedy and full recovery from her injuries.

We are now entering the coldest time of year in Bandhavgarh, which brings new challenges to our anti-poaching patrols with night time and early morning temperatures plummeting towards freezing, something which didn’t use to happen but has been apparent on the last 3 winters. Those of us who live in Northern Europe, North America and Canada will be all too familiar with the unpleasantness of freezing temperatures when we are out and about, so imagine how awful it must be to work outside in the cold for up to 12 hours a day every day. Not only are the mornings cold, but there is frequently an early morning mist which can be over 1 metre (3 – 4 feet) high and can result in increased dangers for our foot patrollers who may not get as early a warning call from the langur monkeys to signal an approaching tiger or leopard. The early morning mists make it a little easier for wild tigers to sneak up and ambush their prey but it also means that life is a lot more challenging for the anti-poaching patrollers who risk their lives to keep wild tigers safe.

The right equipment, including sturdy boots and warm coats, is essential at this time of year, and we think that £123 (US$160) is a good investment to fully equip our patrollers which the vital clothing, footwear, etc., which they need at this time of year. We need to be ready to provide suitable warm clothing for our patrollers or replace vital equipment when it is needed, so would ask you to consider making a donation this #GivingTuesday (03 December 2019) to help us to do this when it is most needed:  https://goto.gg/34704 and there is good news in that any donations which we receive on the day to our Anti-Poaching Patrols project will qualify for a share of a matched funding bonus (on donations up to $1000). The matched funds bonus will be proportionally shared between all the projects receiving donations via GlobalGiving on that day which will be dependent upon the total funds raised. However, all donations (up to $1000) received will qualify for a share of the bonus and all bonus funds received will help us to reach our fundraising target quicker. There are also bonus prizes to be won for the projects with the most unique donors and most funds raised, but we need 20+ unique donors to qualify for one of these.

The colder weather also brings more miscreants into the jungle, mostly woodcutters who are desperate for firewood as the temperatures plunge in their homes. In Bandhavgarh, many villagers have simple homes without heating, electricity or running water, they are dependent on wood fires for heating and cooking and also to deter wild animals who may try to enter their homes. To address this need the villagers try to collect as much wood as possible to keep their fires burning. They are allowed to collect broken twigs and branches from fallen trees but not to cut down the branches or whole living trees nor to collect from protected areas of the buffer forest. The villagers are sometimes so desperate for firewood that they risk their own lives and those of their children by entering the forest at dusk, nightfall and dawn when tigers, leopards and other predators are most active. They also enter the restricted areas in the forest at these times.

Our anti-poaching patrollers are always on the lookout for woodcutters in the forest at this time of year especially. The villagers carry axes to cut down branches and trees but also to defend themselves in the event of an attack by a wild animal. When a villager is killed in the forest whilst woodcutting, etc., invariably fingers are pointed at the tiger and human unrest demands the incarceration of whichever tiger or tigers roam in the area or they threaten to take matters into their own hands, thus threatening the survival of one or more wild tigers. Although wild tigers are sometimes responsible for the killing of humans who stray into their forest home there are more villagers killed each year by wild boar, snake bites, sloth bears and leopards than tigers, and tigers rarely consume the flesh of the humans they have killed, unlike some of the other animal killers. Preventing the deaths of the humans who risk their lives collecting firewood is therefore just as important to keeping wild tigers safe as ensuring that any snares or traps are disabled and any poisoned carcasses are removed or burnt before tigers fall foul of these ill devices. Winter, is thus the second busiest period for tiger poaching or poisoning after the monsoon so our patrollers need to be extra vigilant despite the cold and challenging conditions.

As winter ebbs away towards the middle of February, our patrollers will once again face the challenges brought about by the onset of drought conditions and another increase in human-tiger conflict. There is never really a time of year when anti-poaching patrols are facing a challenge to keep wild tigers safe, so we are always grateful for their dedication and bravery. We can sleep a little better at night because we know that the men and women who make up the Tigers4Ever anti-poaching patrols are doing their utmost to keep wild tigers safe.

It isn’t just about removing traps and snares, it is equally important to inform the villagers about the consequences of their actions for both the wildlife and themselves. Many are unaware of these consequences, so our patrollers talk to them about other ways to protect themselves and their families, without inflicting harm on the forest or its inhabitants. It is, after all, these people who live with wild tigers who will have the greatest influence on the prospect of wild tigers having a wild future. We continue to maintain our community focus with all our wild tiger conservation efforts: by recruiting our anti-poaching patrollers (and other workers) from local villages, using local suppliers to make uniforms, equipment and the food which our patrollers eat whilst on duty, etc. This gives the villagers a dependency on wild tiger survival. Providing a uniform and full equipment for one patroller costs just £123 ($160) but provides employment for up to 20 people plus the patroller, which means that at least 21 people and their families need wild tigers to survive to ensure their future livelihoods. So, when we say that all donations, no matter how large or small, really can make a big difference to saving wild tigers you’ll appreciate why. We hope that with matched funding available on #GivingTuesday some of you will be able to help us give wild tigers a wild future: https://goto.gg/34704.

Some of you may be looking for a Christmas gift for that someone special who loves wild tigers, if you are, please take a look at our online shop where we have a range of clothing in adult and children’s sizes: https://stores.clothes2order.com/tigers4ever-saving-tigers/. None of our products are made in China/sourced from materials made in China; and all sales help our anti-poaching patrols to keep wild tigers safe.

Finally we would like to wish all our supporters in the USA a happy Thanksgiving for this Thursday; and to thank you for sparing the time to read this newsletter and for your continued amazing support and donations. We would like to wish all those who celebrate it a very Merry Christmas and happy New Year. It is always difficult to ask, especially at this time of year, however, wild tigers’ lives are at risk 24 hours a day 365 days a year so it is essential that our patrollers are there to keep them safe.  If you can afford to help, please donate now at: https://goto.gg/34704 and help us to continue to give wild tigers a wild future, every little really does make a big difference. Remember on #GivingTuesday your donations will have an extra impact due to bonus matched funds from GlobalGiving too.

Tiger at the waterhole
Tiger at the waterhole

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Nov 26, 2019

Winter Challenges

Tigers like to sit in waterholes in the dry season
Tigers like to sit in waterholes in the dry season

Winter Challenges

Thank you for your continued amazing support for our projects to give wild tigers a wild future. Without you, more than 90% of what we achieve would be impossible. For our supporters in the USA who will be celebrating Thanksgiving on 28 November 2019 and those in Canada who celebrated on 14 October 2019, you will know that it is a time when people come together and celebrate the joy of giving and of being together in good health. In India too, the joy of giving was celebrated during Daan Utsav (02 – 08 October 2019). Those who celebrate (or celebrated) these festivals know just how important it is to reflect on what you can do or say to help others and the importance of saying thank you. We want to do the same by saying thank you for thinking about Tigers4Ever, thank you for helping us to save wild tigers and thank you on behalf of the wild tigers whose numbers have doubled since we started our work back in June 2010.

This year on Giving Tuesday, 03 December 2019, we will be bringing our first podcast to the world to give everyone an update of Shashi’s story. Those of you who follow us on social media will know that we launched Shashi’s Story – “A day in the life of a wild tiger” on Global Tiger Day (29 July 2019). Shashi is one of three brothers made famous by the BBC series “Tiger Dynasties” in late 2017, son of the Rajbehra female and Bamera, this young male tiger has to find his place in the jungle and to avoid conflict with humans and other tigers. Every day is a challenge for a sub-adult male tiger and our series of five podcasts will narrate the new challenges which Shashi must face to become an alpha male. Keep an eye on our website https://tigers4ever.org/ and our social media channels for further announcements about the launch of our podcasts: “Shashi – Tiger Encounters” over the next few days.

Like Shashi, the wild tigers of Bandhavgarh will face new challenges over the coming weeks as winter arrives in the jungle. With it, comes overnight and early morning temperatures near freezing and early morning mists which provide a little extra cover for wild tigers wishing to sneak up on their prey. It makes difficult conditions for our anti-poaching patrollers too as the freezing temperatures bite to the core and early morning mists bring increased dangers due to reduced visibility. This, however, is a report about our waterhole project and the need to address the impending shortage of water for wildlife with the dry season will bring as winter ebbs away into Summer (you may recall that the jungles of Bandhavgarh don’t experience Spring). In recent years, the hot drier weather has been arriving earlier and earlier; rivers and streams which once had a healthy flow of water until late February are now drying out before January draws to a close. The same is happening in lakes and ponds, where plentiful water is soon replaced by sandy banks leading to a small puddle or even a dry sandy basin.

It is not just tigers who will need to find water over the five months until the monsoon rains arrive; it is their prey too. As the dry season takes hold, human-animal conflict increases day by day as herbivores enter the villages in search of water and feast on the crops whilst there. Predators inevitably follow and when the natural prey flee the scene tigers and leopards take livestock which lack the instinct to run away. If it happened just once, the farmers and villagers who suffer the loss might be appeased by the compensation, but it sets a precedent for the wildlife which has discovered an easy source of food and thus angry humans are moved to take matters into their own hands. Some villagers who lose almost everything to these raids, set wire snares and traps to stop future raids, whilst others poison the carcasses of their dead livestock to kill the tiger or leopard (and their cubs) when they return to finish their meal…..

In our experience, prevention is better than compensation and our permanent wildlife waterholes are part of the prevention solution. If prey animals have adequate water resources inside the protected areas of the national park then they don’t need to enter the villages in search for it. Likewise, if the prey hasn’t wandered away the predators have a plentiful food supply on hand and don’t need to enter the villages in a desperate search for food. So by providing year round water, we are helping to keep wildlife including tigers away from traps and snares; AND eliminating retaliatory poisonings by villagers disgruntled by the loss of their livestock. There will always be exceptions but by keeping these to minimum levels and working with the authorities to ensure the villagers receive prompt and adequate compensation, we are keeping wild tigers alive.

We are currently working closely with the forest department which has recently concluded its mapping of all water resources around Bandhavgarh including underground streams and wells, artificial constructed seasonal waterholes and natural water resources. This is valuable information and is used to help us, in conjunction with surveyors and reports from the forest patrollers, determine the priority needs for our current and future waterhole projects. We include in our weighting the total number of predators, including tigers, most likely to benefit from a permanent waterhole at a particular site, as well as knowledge of human-animal and tiger-tiger conflicts within the area. These factors help us to focus our attention on delivering the right solution at the right time, subject to available funds, of course.

To date, we have raised £2192 (US$2750) of our £10560 (US$13250) target to complete our next waterhole project so we really need your help to enable us to start work before natural water resources dry up and human-animal conflict becomes rife. It is a huge ask, especially with Christmas on the way but if 21 of our supporters could help us to raise £400 (US$500) each then we could start work on our next waterhole which could benefit up to 16 wild tigers including cubs in next few weeks. Each £400 (US$500) donation helps us to fund 6% of a solar-powered pump system to bring underground water to the surface for wild tigers. Without these funds, starting this vital work will be delayed and we will be at the mercy of the weather as to when the natural water resources run dry. The good news is that #GivingTuesday (03 December 2019) is almost upon us, and any donations which we receive on that day to our waterhole project at: https://goto.gg/34315 will qualify for a share of a matched funding bonus (on donations up to $1000). The matched funds bonus will be proportionally shared between all the projects receiving donations via GlobalGiving on that day which will be dependent upon the total funds raised. However, all donations (up to $1000) received will qualify for a share of the bonus and all bonus funds received will help us to reach our target quicker. There are also bonus prizes to be won for the projects with the most unique donors and most funds raised, but we need 20+ unique donors to qualify for one of these.

We know that not everyone can afford such a large donation so all donations are more than welcome no matter how large or small. Some of you will even be going green this Christmas and donating to charity in lieu of sending Christmas cards, if you are doing this and encouraging your friends to do the same, let us see whether we can get some momentum going by sharing #GiveATigerADrink4Xmas & #TigersNeedXmasDrinksToo on your social media channels, don’t forget to share our link: https://goto.gg/34315 with your post.

We are still trying to find a major donor or project sponsor in the interim, but if we achieve our target and find a major donor we’ll be able to build not one but two permanent wildlife waterholes before the drought season takes hold.

Remember all our waterholes are constructed with the environment in mind; we use solar powered pumps to avoid water tankers polluting the jungle and soak away systems to ensure excess water returns to its underground source. So by helping us to provide drinking water for wild tigers you’re helping to reduce the impacts of climate change and reducing human-animal conflict in the jungles of central India:https://goto.gg/34315.

Thank you on behalf of the wild tigers, which you are helping us to keep safe; and on behalf of the wider tiger community in Bandhavgarh, which benefits from providing equipment and labour for our waterhole projects; we couldn’t do this without you. May I take this opportunity to wish those of you who celebrate it a very Merry Christmas, and to wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year.

Early morning mists lifting over Bandhavgarh
Early morning mists lifting over Bandhavgarh

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