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Oct 18, 2019

Diwali and Winter

Tigers enjoying the lush meadows in Bandhavgarh
Tigers enjoying the lush meadows in Bandhavgarh

The monsoon rains have faded away leaving Bandhavgarh’s grasslands lush and green. The days are now mild and sunny but this won’t last long as the cold misty weather draws in around November-January. Before this, India will celebrate Diwali (the Festival of Lights) from 25 – 29 October, with the main celebrations on the night of the 27th. This is always a challenging time for our poaching patrols as revellers let off paper lanterns into the night sky which can cause forest fires.

You magnificent support throughout the course of this project has helped us to achieve 90% of our fundraising total, with £8306 of £9588 (US$10871 of US$12550) raised. The challenges we will face over the coming months will be very different from during the monsoon rains because cold and early morning mists will play a big part in increasing the dangers for both the wild tigers and our patrollers. It seems strange to talk about cold weather in the jungles of central India, but the reality is that in the last four years, early morning and late night temperatures have plummeted to a testing 0°C (32°F) from daytime mild temperatures of around 27°C (81°F), which can be quite a challenge in itself. Study warm boots and heavy coats are not often seen in rural central India but become essential wear for our Anti-Poaching Patrollers over the next few months. Each year, we have to check the uniforms and see what we need to replace, our patrollers are very good at making their equipment last, by repairing tears and snags in their uniforms throughout the year, but sometimes they will need new. A donation of just £40 (US$52) can help us to provide these much needed essential equipment items for one patroller when they need them most https://goto.gg/28767. We all know how much difference a warm coat and sturdy shoes can make on a cold frosty morning….

During the Diwali festivities our patrollers will also need to be on high alert as revellers often wander into the forest to continue their partying. Albeit that their intent is to enjoy the festival, their actions can lead to all kinds of disturbance to the wildlife, and when they light campfires or paper lanterns these can lead to serious forest fires. Our night patrolling during the festivities is particularly important to eliminate both these risks and the risk that poachers could try to slip into the forest as revellers and whilst there lay traps and snares. Sometimes dealing with drunken revellers in the forest can present its own challenges, especially when they are in large groups. Thankfully, in most cases, the revellers just want to continue their partying and will move on or return to their villages when prompted to do so. Our patrollers are always keen to let them know about the potential consequences of their activities on the wildlife, the forest and their own safety.

The early morning mists, which are a feature of winter in Bandhavgarh, also present their own challenges for our patrollers. These mists can sometimes linger for a few hours around dawn, until the sun is high enough in the sky and the temperatures have risen sufficiently for them to clear. Patrolling at this time has heightened risks because our reduced visibility for both the patrollers and the langur monkeys who often sound the first alarm for an approaching predator such as a tiger or leopard. Extra care is also needed to ensure that our patrollers don’t inadvertently step into a trap or snare, set for wild animals, due to reduced visibility. The strong canes which we provide for our patrollers can prove vital during the early morning mists as they patrol through the lush vegetation. A donation of £20 (US$26) can help to provide a team of Anti-Poaching Patrollers with strong canes which they can use to check for traps and snares before they put their feet and legs at risk: https://goto.gg/28767. Tigers are crepuscular hunters, meaning that they tend to hunt at dawn and dusk, which means that during the early morning mists they can use the natural blanket as extra camouflage as the sneak up on their prey. Our patrollers also have to be extra vigilant at this time of increased tiger activity not to suddenly interrupt a tiger with its kill or become accidental prey. At this time, our patrol vehicles play a key role in ensuring that our patrollers can escape to safety if a tiger suddenly appears from the early morning mists. A donation of £38 (US$50) can provide fuel and transport (including an emergency escape) for a team of patrollers for one day:  https://goto.gg/28767.

Each year, the success of our anti-poaching patrols has ensured that more tiger cubs are surviving to adulthood and thus tiger numbers have increased year on year. Since we started our first of its kind buffer zone anti-poaching patrols on 01 July 2015, we have witnessed a 96% reduction in wild tiger deaths due to poaching and elimination of wild tiger deaths due to retaliatory poisonings, whilst wild tiger numbers have almost doubled in the same period. This success means more work though, as there are now more tigers to protect. Every month, we receive requests to increase our patrolling, but we can’t do this without your help. To meet this increased demand we would need to raise an extra £125 (US$168) each month in addition to the £802 (US$1075) we currently need. We set up a parallel project https://goto.gg/34704 to cover the cost of our patrolling in 2019/2020, where we are a long way short of our fundraising target and will focus our fundraising efforts over the next few months. If you are doing #Stoptober or #Movember and looking for a charity to support during your campaign, perhaps you would consider setting up a fundraiser page at: https://www.globalgiving.org/dy/v2/fundraisers/start/?fundraiser.projids=34704 to help us to continue our vital patrolling throughout the winter months?

Finally, I would like to thank you all again for your continued amazing support and donations, which have not only enabled us to give wild tigers a wild future they have helped us to increase their numbers too. I know that many of you have Halloween (did you know that the UK spends £475 million and the USA spends US$7.5 billion annually on Halloween?) and Christmas to pay for in the coming weeks, so if you can’t donate large amounts right now, perhaps you could consider a small donation each month at: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/saving-bandhavgarhs-wild-tigers/?show=recurring, every little really does make a big difference for the wild tigers. I know that the wild tigers which you are helping us to keep safe can’t thank you themselves, so I am saying thank you on their behalf. Thank you also, on behalf of the patrollers we are keeping in work (and their families who have food on the table); and on behalf of the wider tiger community in Bandhavgarh, which benefits from providing food/uniforms/equipment for our patrols and from the safety/education advice given by Deepak, Prahlad, Vidya, Ravi and the rest of our anti-poaching patrol team.

Tigers like to sleep at the base of trees
Tigers like to sleep at the base of trees

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Oct 14, 2019

Halloween and Tiger Themed Pumpkins

Wild Tiger in Bandhavgarh
Wild Tiger in Bandhavgarh

In our last project report, we told you how some amazing help from our supporters enabled us to help 180 children living with wild tigers in Bandhavgarh to go to school because we were able to provide education packs with the basic writing materials and books needed to make this a reality.

Three months have now passed since our last report and it is four months since we last had sufficient funds to help the rural children from the poorest communities to have a chance to grow up and have a career which isn’t entirely dependent on encroachment or destruction of wild tiger habitat for survival. Thanks to your amazing support, the 180 children we helped took the total number of children given education opportunities by Tigers4Ever to 2200. We have helped children in 25 villages to go to school where they can learn to read, write and equally importantly learn about wildlife, nature and conservation. These children have a chance to grow up and become protectors of wild tigers rather than farmers who need more and more land for their crops and grazing livestock.

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. It has been a difficult few months in respect of fundraising for our education projects and we have been unable to fund any more education packs as a result.

As we head towards winter, Halloween is almost upon us and we are stunned each year when we learn how much is spent annually in the UK (£475 million) and USA (US$7.5billion) on Trick or Treat celebrations and Halloween costumes! This is even more surprising when compared to the £20 (US$26) which is needed for education packs to send four children living with wild tigers to school for a year. The amount spent on Halloween in the UK alone is four times more than would be needed to send every child living with wild tigers in Bandhavgarh to school for 4 years! With this in mind, could we ask you all for a small favour this Halloween, please? When out Trick or Treating with the children or grandchildren could you ask them to cut a tiger’s face in their pumpkins and put some black stripes on them too? When people ask why a tiger pumpkin, please tell them it is to help save tigers in the wild and ask them to put a few pennies or cents in a jar or box to help the cause. At the end of the evening, please count up all the pennies (cents) and make an equivalent donation here: https://goto.gg/32565. 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 want you and your children to have fun celebrating Halloween but we’d also like to ensure that when the next generation grows up to share the fun with their own children that there will still be tigers in the wild, and they can pass on the message about tiger themed pumpkins saving wild tigers for 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.

Example Tiger Pumpkin
Example Tiger Pumpkin

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Oct 7, 2019

After the Monsoon Rains

A young male tiger at the water's edge
A young male tiger at the water's edge

The monsoon season is drawing to a close with thunderstorms and showers now a rare occurrence. Over the next few months tigers and the other wildlife which share their forest home will face much cooler drier conditions with early morning mists blanketing the lush greenery of the post monsoon forest. 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 for the anti-poaching patrollers who risk their lives to keep wild tigers safe.

Thanks to the donations we received from online and offline fundraising during the monsoon we were able to patrol at 83% of planned patrolling levels. A shortfall in fundraising meant that we had to reluctantly reduce our patrolling by 17% during peak poaching season. As always happens, during the heavy monsoon rains, there are casualties in the wild tiger, human and other wildlife populations. These deaths arise from a variety reasons including snake bites, old age, and drowning of weaker or infirm animals in the localised floods which result from the sudden surge and overflow of replenished rivers.

Sadly, we have to report the deaths of eight tigers during the 2019 monsoon period. The oldest tigress in Bandhavgarh was the first to die as her body weakened by old age and failing limbs (suspected arthritis) in July. A few days later we received news of three more tiger deaths as a tigress sought to defend her cubs from an intruding male lost her life in the fight and her male cub also died close by from the wounds inflicted by the male. The female cub was rescued by forest department officials who arranged immediate treatment by a vet and housed the cub in a specially designed enclosure to allow her time to recover. In a separate incident, a young sub-adult male tiger was bitten by a venomous snake and died a few hours later. Further bad news arrived just a few days later when the rescued female cub also died from the wounds inflicted by the intruding male. It had been a bad start to the monsoon period with five tiger deaths in a matter of weeks.

Things didn’t really improve as we moved into August with the discovery of another young cub abandoned by his mother and dead in the undergrowth. It was difficult for the patrollers to determine why his mother had left him behind, maybe he was unwell or maybe he was just weaker than his siblings and couldn’t keep up with them. As September arrived, and the heavy rains became more sporadic, we received reports that one of the older tigresses in Bandhavgarh hadn’t been seen by the patrolling teams for quite a few weeks, she had left her two cubs whilst she went off to hunt but hadn’t returned, not wishing to lose any more tigers the forest department decided to rescue the cubs and put them in an enclosure where could learn vital hunting skills by killing easier prey. The search for their mother continued and a few days later her skeleton was discovered in the think undergrowth, cleaned by the vultures, she had obviously died a few days or possibly a week earlier. The final reported tiger death came when we received news that a tigress had died near to a river which had burst its banks, she was a young tigress and is thought to have struggled to cross the river as a sudden swell caused a fierce current as she tried to cross.

It is always sad and difficult to receive and report so many tiger deaths in such a short period of time, the only consolation is that the deaths were not due to illicit poaching or poisoning activities.

Now we must prepare for the challenges presented by the cooler post monsoon weather, as summer turns to winter. Yes the weather is much drier in winter but it is much colder too. Our anti-poaching patrollers can put away their waterproof clothing for a while and turn to study warm boots and warm jackets to protect them from the early morning and night time cold. They also need to be extra vigilant in the early morning mist as visibility is reduced so spotting wild animals including tigers lurking in the undergrowth is more of a challenge. At this time of year, our patrollers are always grateful for the alarm calls sounded by the langur monkeys high in the trees, especially the panicked alarm call which alerts the monkey troop to the presence of a leopard on the move. Leopards present a greater risk to both humans and monkeys because they are much better at climbing trees, than tigers, when in pursuit of their prey.

Peak poaching season may be drawing to a close, but it doesn’t mean our patrollers can relax, quite the contrary in fact. During the monsoon rains the plants and grasses in the jungle have flourished but so have the crops in the villages too. Wildlife doesn’t distinguish between the jungle and human habitat so human-animal conflict often increases when the fields are filled with crops of rice, fruit, vegetables, sugar cane and other grain crops too. The herbivores often see these crops as food for them and indulge themselves at the farmers’ expense. This can lead to traps and snares being set around the villages to prevent crop raiding wildlife, but where the prey ventures the predators, including tigers, will follow. These traps and snares are both illegal and indiscriminate but it doesn’t prevent them being laid. Prior to the establishment of our anti-poaching patrols many tigers, young and old, fell victim to these snares and traps even though their purpose was to prevent wild boar and deer, etc., from raiding the crops. For this reason, we utilise local intelligence in our patrolling network to discover which villages and farms have been most affected by crop raiding, loss of livestock, etc., as these are the villagers who are most likely to take retaliatory action against the wildlife which they see as a nuisance. In the last few weeks, our patrollers have been mobilised to search around the perimeter of two villages where we had received information that snares and traps had been laid. Our patrollers were quick to ensure the removal of these traps and snares before any tigers or other wildlife fell victim.

It isn’t just about removing the traps and snares, it is also as important to communicate with the villagers about the consequences of such traps and snares for both the wildlife and themselves. Many are unaware of the consequences of their actions, so our patrollers talk to them about other ways to protect their crops and livestock, from their wild neighbours, without inflicting harm. It is, after all, the people who live with wild tigers on their doorstep who will have the greatest say as to whether wild tigers will have a wild future. For this reason, we have always had a community focus with all our wild tiger conservation projects: we recruit our anti-poaching patrollers (and other workers) from the local villages, use local suppliers to make their uniforms, equipment and the food which our patrollers eat whilst on duty. This way the villages are dependent on the wild tigers for income from other sources which sustain their wellbeing too. Providing a uniform and full equipment for one patroller cost just £123 ($165) but can provide employment for up to 20 people https://goto.gg/34704 plus the patroller, and that means that at least 21 people and their families need wild tigers to survive to ensure that their work will continue into the future. When we say that all donations can really make a big difference to saving wild tigers, no matter how large or small the donation is: https://goto.gg/34704, we hope that you can see why.  

We want to end this newsletter on a positive note because it isn’t all bad news for the wild tiger numbers in Bandhavgarh. In the four and a quarter years since we established our first of its kind buffer zone anti-poaching patrols (established 01 July 2015) we have seen the number of wild tigers in Bandhavgarh double, we have eliminated wild tiger deaths from retaliatory poisoning and have seen a 96% reduction in wild tiger poaching, which gives us the confidence that our community focussed projects are getting it right. As we have said previously, we are eternally grateful for the bravery and ingenuity of the men and women who are the Tigers4Ever anti-poaching patrollers and who risk their lives each day to ensure that wild tigers are safe. As we don’t receive any grants or government funding, we are entirely dependent on the generosity of our supporters, people like you, to keep our patrols protecting wild tigers.

Thank you for sparing the time to read this newsletter and for all your amazing support and donations. We know that Christmas is on the horizon for many of you now, so it is always difficult to ask, 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.

Finally, as always, I would like to thank you on behalf of the wild tigers, which we are keeping safe; on behalf of the anti-poaching patrollers you are helping to keep in work (and their families who have food on the table). I would also like to thank you on behalf of the wider tiger community in Bandhavgarh, which benefits from providing food/uniforms/equipment for our patrols and from the safety/education advice given by Deepak, Prahlad, Vidya, Ravi and our patrolling team.

Tiger cubs playing in a tree
Tiger cubs playing in a tree
A Chittal (Spotted Deer) in a lush meadow (vah)
A Chittal (Spotted Deer) in a lush meadow (vah)

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