Apr 19, 2021

Droughts, Fires and Elephants

Tiger with face blackened by smoke from the fires
Tiger with face blackened by smoke from the fires

Sometimes we wonder whether the droughts which are getting longer and harder for the wildlife of Bandhavgarh are wholly down to climate change or whether something else is in the mix. We wrote our last waterhole project update just five and a half weeks ago, but it seems like longer given what has happened since. If you read that report you’ll remember that wild elephants had damaged the solar-pump systems at two of our major waterhole sites leaving six of our wildlife waterholes dry. Work started on the repairs as soon as we had raised sufficient funds, we encountered an unexpected problem when we discovered that sand had entered the bore-well during the time when it wasn’t working, but we got an engineer on site to clear the bore-well before reconnecting the pump to the newly repaired solar system. As a result, the repairs took a little longer than anticipated but I’m pleased to say that there is water in all six of the waterholes filled by the two solar-pump systems and they are being used by tigers and other wild animals again. We’re in the process of completing the elephant proof fencing around the solar pump systems as I write.

Devastation and Restoration

If you follow our social media channels, you’ll also know about the forest fires which ravaged miles of wild tiger habitat for four days at the end of March and beginning of April. These fires have decimated the jungle destroying more than a third of the core forest and buffer forest too. Thousands of animals including wild tigers were displaced by the fires whilst others were too small or too vulnerable to flee, thus perishing in the flames and smoke. Many birds, reptiles, small mammals and insects were lost in the fires and the important roles which they played in seed dispersal and forest regeneration have been lost too. Since the fires were quashed, we’ve already received reports from our patrollers that two tigers and three leopards have died as a result of displacement and territorial conflict. One leopard was found in a fire affected area of forest, her fur blackened by smoke, she had succumbed to smoke inhalation. Many primate families have been displaced too. Rebuilding their forest homes will not happen overnight, but we plan to plant as many trees as we are able to do so we can restore the forest and provide food and habitat for the future generations of wildlife so dependent on the trees for life. By planting these trees, we’ll also be helping to address the issue of climate change too, as the saplings grow and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere around them.

The Risk of Retaliatory Poisoning and Poaching is High

In the short term, more permanent wildlife waterholes are essential to prevent the inevitable tiger-tiger and human-animal conflict, which will arise due to the animals being displaced by the fires, from leading to more tiger deaths. We plan to start work within two weeks on installing a solar powered bore-well pump system at a large waterhole, which is currently being filled by water tankers, and is used by at least 42 elephants and 8 wild tigers plus countless other animals which have been displaced by the fires. If you have been following our newsletters for some time, you will know that tankers are a short-term solution because they habitualise wild tigers to large human vehicles thus making it easier for poachers to strike. However, one waterhole is nowhere near enough to reduce the conflict caused by the displaced wildlife encroaching on the territories of others and humans, so we need your help to be able to do at least one more waterhole, in addition to our current plan, before it is too late for the displaced wild tigers and other wildlife:  https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/water-for-bandhavgarhs-tigers/. With your help, we can raise enough money to start work at a second site which will benefit another 10 wild tigers including cubs too.

 You Can Help us to Make a Huge Difference Right Now

This week, we’re taking part in GlobalGiving’s Climate Action Campaign and your donation up to US$100 (£78) will get a 100% bonus in matched funds until 23 April 2021 only. So now really is the time to give, to make the most of your donation!

We need to raise £4000 to start work at the second site, so if just 30 of our supporters each donate US$100 (£78) during this campaign we’ll raise enough with the bonus matched funds, to start work straight away, saving the lives of at least 10 more wild tigers.

The Wild Elephants Have Done It Again

As I’m writing this report, I have just received news that the wild elephants have entered an area of the forest where they have never been before, due to their displacement by the fires, and damaged the solar bore-well pump system at another of our waterhole sites. This damage could lead to two more waterholes running dry within the next fortnight, and leaving up to 12 tigers including cubs to enter the nearby villages in search of food and water! We were planning to erect elephant proof fencing at this site, as a precaution, once the repairs at the other sites were complete. It is likely that we will need to raise another £600 (US$840) to complete these repairs too.  

Many Challenges Ahead         

We need to quadruple our efforts to keep wild tigers safe right now. We’re increasing our anti-poaching patrols to 2.5 times normal levels to address the increased risk of retaliatory poisoning and poaching of wild tigers. With your help, we will be able to complete our next waterhole project (and hopefully a further one too) and the repairs needed where the elephants have damaged the solar pump system which currently fills two waterholes, which in total would help to keep at least 30 wild tigers safe.

Remember all new monthly donations set up during 2021 will also qualify for a 100% GlobalGiving bonus match at month 4: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/water-for-bandhavgarhs-tigers/?show=recurring, but if you donate during the climate action campaign the donation will qualify for 100% bonus matched funds up to US$100 (£78) too. There really has never been a better time to donate.

Here are some of the ways your donations will help us to save wild tigers:

- £10 ($13) per month will help to drill 12 metres (39 feet) of bore-well to access underground water;

- £20 ($26) will help to drill 2 metres (6.5 feet) of bore-well to access underground water;

- £75 ($95) can pay a team of workers to prepare a site for a new waterhole for wild tigers;

- £380 ($475) will fund 6% of a solar system to bring underground water to the surface;

£600 ($840) will enable us to repair the damaged solar-powered pump system and provide water for at least 12 wild tigers including cubs.

Every donation, no matter how large or small, helps us increase and protect the tiger population. 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. Thanks to you, the tigers can live peacefully and those who live beside them can protect their livelihoods.

Any and all donations are welcome https://goto.gg/34315.

If you can’t afford to donate perhaps you could become a Tigers4Ever fundraiser, here: https://www.globalgiving.org/dy/v2/fundraisers/start/?fundraiser.projids=34315 and ask your friends, colleagues and family to donate to your fundraiser to help us keep wild tigers safe.

Forest Fires in Bandhavgarh
Forest Fires in Bandhavgarh
Constructing a Frame For a Solar Powered Waterhole
Constructing a Frame For a Solar Powered Waterhole

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Mar 10, 2021

The Drought Season is Back

Wild Tigers need Tigers4Ever Waterholes like this
Wild Tigers need Tigers4Ever Waterholes like this

Just over a month ago we received a stark reminder of just how essential our permanent wildlife waterholes are when wild elephants damaged the solar pump systems at two locations rendering the pump systems inoperable: https://goto.gg/51049. Within two weeks the waterholes were dry, just like the many streams, rivers and natural waterholes around Bandhavgarh as the hot dry weather takes hold. We set up the above micro-project and thanks to your amazing support we raised sufficient funds to commence the repair work this week. New solar panels have arrived and the frame is currently being repaired so the solar powered borehole pumps will be operational by the end of this week, fingers crossed.

The incident highlighted something which when we first installed our solar-powered pump systems wasn’t a problem: wild elephant damage. Wild elephants are relatively new in Bandhavgarh as the herds only arrived from the neighbouring state of Chhattisgarh when mining activity disrupted their former home. These elephants took a liking to Bandhavgarh and stayed, the herds are now growing as new calves are born so it is definitely something we need to think about going forward. We did some research and found that two environmentally friendly elephant proof fencing options are available so the repaired solar-powered borehole pump systems and all those at future waterholes will incorporate either chilli fencing or bee-hive fencing to deter the elephants from causing future damage. We will also be talking with the villagers whose crops were decimated by elephants in 2020 to encourage them to protect their 2021 crops with either of these options too. An added bonus for the villagers is that deer don’t like chilli peppers either so growing chilli peppers along fences around seasonal crops will reduce crop raiding too. In a time when the economic impact of COVID19 is still devastating the wider tiger community every little help can make a huge difference. The protective fencing whether bee-hive or chilli peppers will also generate something else for the villagers to sell, thus reducing their dependency on scarce forest resources; and in turn reduces the human-animal conflict which inevitably increases with human encroachment.

The speed in which our waterholes became dry was frightening, such is the impact of climate change, that February is now hotter and drier whilst marking the onset of the drought which will plague the wildlife and human communities for the next four months. It reminded us that more wildlife waterholes are essential to address the impact of climate change, and that the drought isn’t going to wait until we are ready, we must act now.

16 Tigers and Cubs need your help

There are 16 tigers with cubs which face daily challenges of either human-animal or tiger-tiger conflict due to a lack of water in the home territories, we urgently need to do something before these tigers start to lose their lives. The impact of COVID19 has made it difficult to raise funds from corporate sources to make the next waterhole happen, so we are turning to you, our loyal and generous supporters for help. If every person who had donated to this project: https://goto.gg/34315 previously gave just £40 ($56) each today we could start work on our next waterhole immediately and save the lives of these 16 wild tigers and reduce the risk of human-animal conflict increasing in the nearby villages. Now that would be truly amazing.  

Your support over the last year has been truly magnificent, thank you. It has helped us to provide 4 drinking water tanks for anti-poaching patrollers in remote locations around the forest giving them safe access to clean drinking water; you also helped us to keep our anti-poaching patrols going in the face of adversity and helped us replace worn out uniforms and boots; and have helped us to do essential repairs at two of our existing permanent wildlife waterholes too. We haven’t forgotten our promise to build the next permanent wildlife waterhole, nor the tigers which it will benefit; we’re just struggling to raise the necessary funds to make it happen. We thought that we could wait for things to improve so we could engage the help of a potential corporate partner to build the next permanent wildlife waterhole now, but this is sadly proving impossible.

We don’t want COVID19 and Climate Change to destroy the progress we have made in wild tiger conservation over the last 10 years and we want to ensure that our efforts to give wild tigers a wild future can keep gaining momentum. In spite of the challenges we have all faced over the last year, your collective spirit and generosity has been truly inspiring. Your donations and continued support over this time has strengthened our hope that when we pull through this pandemic, wild tigers will still thrive in the jungles of Bandhavgarh, and we will be able to carry on giving them a wild future. So on behalf of those tigers, we’d like to thank you for not forgetting that without your help we wouldn’t be able to keep them safe.

A Reminder of the Current Risks to wild Tigers we’re facing:

  • Human-Animal conflict has increased with tiger attacks on humans being almost a weekly or more frequent event. Coupled with a farmer and a young girl being killed by marauding wild elephants as they tried to save their crops;
  • Villagers poisoned a wild tigress and two of her cubs in a retaliatory attack due to persistent livestock killings;
  • Wild elephants have decimated many paddy fields ruining the rice crops of multiple villagers which left them with both food and income shortages;
  • Human encroachment continues to increase to unprecedented levels as precious forest resources are plundered to keep food on the table for families who haven’t had paid employment since 25 March 2020; and
  • The 2021 drought season and the impact of Climate change is already here.

But it’s not all bad news for wild tigers

On a positive note, there have been some successes too:

  • We managed to raise £346 (US$474) towards our next waterhole construction, due to your fantastic support;
  • No wild tigers deaths due to poaching for 53 months;
  • No retaliatory poisonings for 5 months;
  • Anti-Poaching Patrols still doubledto protect wild tigers;
  • Ten new tiger cubs born since our last report;
  • Patrollers at 4 remote camps have safe drinking water so no longer have to fill their drinking water bottles at the same waterholes used by tigers and other wildlife;
  • We still plan to put the next permanent waterhole for wild tigers in a critical dry location as soon as we have sufficient funds.

How you can help                   

We know that we need to quadruple our efforts to keep wild tigers safe right now. It is normal to double our efforts throughout the peak poaching season, but we could be facing another four to six months of the same difficult conditions we’ve already set out in this project report. So the best way to help us keep wild tigers safe is to fund our projects today, because tomorrow might be too late.

Remember all new monthly donations set up during 2021 with qualify for a 100% GlobalGiving bonus match on month four: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/water-for-bandhavgarhs-tigers/?show=recurring.

Here are some of the ways your donations help us to save wild tigers:

- £10 ($13) per month will help to drill 12 metres (39 feet) of bore-well to access underground water;

- £20 ($26) will help to drill 2 metres (6.5 feet) of bore-well to access underground water;

- £75 ($95) can pay a team of workers to prepare a site for a new waterhole for wild tigers;

- £380 ($475) will fund 6% of a solar system to bring underground water to the surface.

Every donation, no matter how large or small, helps us increase and protect the tiger population. 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. Thanks to you, the tigers can live peacefully and those who live beside them can protect their livelihoods.

Any and all donations are welcome https://goto.gg/34315.

If you can’t afford to donate perhaps you could become a become a Tigers4Ever fundraiser, here: https://www.globalgiving.org/dy/v2/fundraisers/start/?fundraiser.projids=34315 and ask your friends, colleagues and family to donate to your fundraiser to help us keep wild tigers safe.

The Drought Season Impacts Wildlife Water Quickly
The Drought Season Impacts Wildlife Water Quickly

Links:

Mar 3, 2021

Hotter Drier Weather Ahead

Tigress & Young Cubs
Tigress & Young Cubs

Your amazing support over the last four months has helped us to resume double patrolling when it is most needed; we asked for your help to keep our patrols doubled until the end of December 2020 and your brilliant support has enabled us to keep this going throughout January - March 2021 too. Thank you on behalf of the wild tigers which your support is helping us to keep safe.

I can’t remember when I last wrote a project newsletter which wasn’t driven by the impacts of COVID19, but we are in unprecedented times on a global scale and wild tigers in India are impacted by the consequences too. Since March 2020, human encroachment and human-animal conflict have been at their highest levels for some six years. I have to say that it is a relief these days when we can go a week without receiving news of someone being mauled or a tiger or leopard having been killed in a territorial battle. Tiger-Tiger and Tiger-Leopard conflict is another consequence of shrinking habitat due in part to historical logging and population growth but worsened in the last 12 months by the increase in human encroachment in the forest.

In the last month we learnt of two big cat deaths in the Panpatha buffer forest of Bandhavgarh, heart-breaking because this happened in successive days. First we learnt that a leopard had been killed by a tiger, then the following day a 3 year old female tiger was discovered dead less than a mile away. The tigress also died from the wounds inflicted in a territorial fight. What people don’t always realise is the frequency of these tiger-tiger territorial fights is increasing because of human disturbance in the forest. Every time people take their livestock to forest, or go to collect wood, tendu leaves, mahua flowers, fruit or honey to sell they disturb the native inhabitants of the forest. Deer and other prey animals move away from the human encroachment leaving predators with less to eat, so tigers and leopards move into neighbouring territories in search of food. Under normal circumstances these big cats would avoid each other but hunger motivates them to take increased risks like taking livestock and facing retaliatory poisonings or taking down prey in the territory of another tiger and risking loss of life if caught.

Our anti-poaching patrols are working hard to eliminate the risks caused by increased human encroachment levels; but without your continued support we won’t be able to sustain our doubled patrols indefinitely. The rumours of increased in poaching activity in the neighbouring states persists and we have seen evidence of this with increased arrests of individuals caught with a bounty of tiger skins, leopard skins and other tiger body parts. As the hotter, drier weather approaches and waterholes run dry, the likelihood of human-animal conflict inevitably increases too. In fact two of our waterholes are currently dry because wild elephants have damaged the solar panels which power the bore-well pumps which bring water to the surface. We have been actively fundraising for the last few weeks to buy 4 replacement solar panels, repair the panel framework and erect elephant proof fencing to reduce the risk of recurrence: https://goto.gg/51049 . At the time of writing, we are just £101 (US$140) short of our target to complete this work, so hopefully we will be able to restore the water for the 16 tigers and countless other animals dependent on these waterholes soon.

It isn’t all bad news though; two tigresses have given birth to 4 cubs each since our last project report, a third tigress has 3 new cubs and a fourth has an unspecified number of cubs as their mother hasn’t brought them out of the birthing den yet. We do know that we have at least eleven more tigers to keep safe now in addition to all the others. The patter of tiny paws always gives us an extra incentive to go the extra mile needed to keep wild tigers safe, what about you? https://goto.gg/34704.

The last four months have been just as testing for the people in the villages around Bandhavgarh due to the economic consequences of COVID19, as they continue to put their own lives at risk by going deeper into the forest in search of something to eat or sell. As a consequence, the death and injury toll continues the unprecedented trend we reported in our last project report:

  • A school building and several farm buildings have been destroyed by marauding elephants;
  • A single village lost 12 cows in a week due to attacks by displaced tigers and another village lost 3 cows in 5 days to attacks by a single tiger.
  • Two elephants from the Bandhavgarh herd had wandered many miles away towards Jabalpur but were killed by tethered snares laid by villagers disgruntled by the damage they had done to their sugar cane crops.
  • A mahout of over 20 years’ service in the forest department took his own life just before Christmas because he couldn’t afford to feed his family.
  • A 15 year old girl was mauled and killed by a tiger in the Panpatha buffer on 20 December and the angry villagers subsequently mounted an attack of Forest Department patrollers in retaliation on both 22 and 23 December, demanding that something must be done to remove the tiger.
  • One of our own anti-poaching patrollers was charged by a tigress (who was protecting her 3 cubs) as he returned home from his patrolling duties on Christmas Eve. Thankfully, he remembered his training and attributed it to saving his life. The tigress and her cubs also returned to the forest unharmed.
  • Nine people from the villages in the buffer zones were mauled by tigers in separate incidents between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. Mostly the victims were wood collectors/cutters but two of them were picking amla fruit. Six different tigers have been implicated in the attacks.
  • 15 cows from 3 villages have been killed already in 2021 so unrest in the villages is still high
  • A leopard and a 3 year old tigress were killed in territorial fights on consecutive days in the Panpatha buffer.
  • The drought season is underway, and the hotter drier weather will bring an increase in the number of people picking tendu leaves and mahua flowers inside the forest.

The only way we can address these issues is to keep our patrolling doubled until at least the end of May 2021, when hopefully the COVID vaccination rollout will help to alleviate the economic burden of COVID19, and the villagers’ children will be able to return to school for the first time since March 2020.

With increased patrols, we can cover an extra 500km (312 miles) of wild tiger territory over and above what we were able to do in October when tragedy struck for a tigress and her cubs. The increase also means more time will be spent looking for snares; traps and signs of would be poisoners around forest areas where human encroachment is rife. Increased patrols also help to curb the dangerous encroachment into the territories of wild tigers which is still increasing, and to provide safety advice for those trying to protect their crops and livestock from wandering elephants and tigers respectively.

The only way we can sustain this increase in our patrolling is to ask for your help, again, knowing that your gift today can make a huge difference as to whether Bandhavgarh’s wild tigers can survive these unprecedented threats:

  • A gift of £20 ($28) will help us to pay a patrolling team for a day
  • A gift of £30 ($42) will provide hot nutritious meals whilst they are on duty for a day
  • A gift of £40 ($56) will ensure that we can transport a team of anti-poaching patrollers to a remote location for a day’s patrolling
  • A gift of £100 ($140) will ensure that a team of patrollers can cover 125km (78 miles) of wild tiger territory in a day
  • A gift of £500 ($700) will ensure that we can increase of patrolling levels to the highest level for one month.

If we don’t act now, we are sure that the lives of more tigers and more humans will be lost, and with every loss of human life comes another threat to the tiger’s survival in the wild, thus we must protect both if we are to ensure that wild tigers will have a wild future.

Every single donation received will help us to save wild tigers’ lives, no matter how large or small. The current crisis means that we need your help like never before: https://goto.gg/34704. Next week (08 March – 12 March 2021) is the GlobalGiving Little by Little campaign and we’re taking part, which is good news because your gift up to £36 (US$50) will receive 50% bonus matched funds at no extra cost to you. So if you are able to help during Little by Little your impact will be even greater too.

Please don’t hesitate if you can help, your donation can be the difference between life and death for a wild tiger, as it helps to increase our patrolling when it is most needed. Every tiger and every tiger cub counts. Thank you for making our fight against poachers, the changing climate and human-animal conflict possible.

Little by Little Tiger Cubs
Little by Little Tiger Cubs

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