Feb 11, 2020

It's Almost Drought Season Again

Tiger in the Shade as the Temperatures Rise
Tiger in the Shade as the Temperatures Rise

It’s Almost Drought Season Again

Wow, it’s February already! It doesn’t seem five minutes since Christmas and New Year but if we’ve learnt one thing over the last ten years, it is that every day brings a new challenge in wild tiger conservation; and because of this time really does fly by. I can’t start this project report, without thanking you all for your amazing support during our GivingTuesday and YearEnd fundraising campaigns. We know that Christmas is one of the most expensive times of year for many people, but your generosity has enabled us to raise £587.76 (US$774.49) for our waterhole project alone!

In December, we conducted surveys out at the two potential waterhole sites mentioned in our last report, and the good news is that both are suitable for solar-powered bore-well systems to provide year round water for wild tigers and other wildlife. As February progresses, the average daily temperatures increase and with the hotter days, the rivers, streams, pools, lakes and other surface water locations start to dry out. Deer, which are native prey for wild tigers, need drinking water to help with the digestion of their herbivorous diet. When the natural water resources are dry, the deer will often wander into the villages in search of drinking water from the puddles which surround the village wells. The deer, unfortunately, don’t stop at just drinking water, because the forest grasslands have become parched and leaves from the trees have dried and fallen to the ground, so the deer see the crops in the villages as a new source of food.

It is not uncommon for villagers to lose up to 37% of their annual income from the loss of crops raided by these herbivores (PLOS One Article). Sadly, the human-animal conflict doesn’t stop at crop raiding, as predators follow their prey into the villages and when the deer run away the domesticated livestock just stand in the paddocks and fields continuing to graze, they are oblivious to the fact that they are now on the menu; and in the blink of an eye a cow, bullock, goat, etc., is taken for the predator’s next meal. Easy pickings, these animals don’t run away! The tigers and leopards now have new prey! It is so easy to hunt these animals which don’t run away so why bother chasing deer or wild boar? Some unfortunate villagers lose up to 48% of their livestock to habitual predators annually! A frightening statistic of human-animal conflict and one, which if not addressed, will threaten the future existence of wild tigers in the area.

Our waterholes seek to reduce this risk, if we can provide year round water for the prey animals; we can keep them out of the villages and reduce the risk of them raiding crops; but not only that, we can also reduce the risk of tigers and leopards following their prey into the villages and taking livestock instead. If the villagers don’t suffer excessive losses due to human-animal conflict, they are far more likely to accept living with wild tigers and other animals on the fringes of their homes. Thus it is more likely that wild tigers will have wild futures.

It is more than a year since we completed our last wildlife waterhole project, and although this is helping to keep up to 33 tigers including cubs away from the villages, but we still need to do something about the remaining two thirds of the wild tiger population to ensure that we can give them wild futures too. Over the last year, we have been working very hard to try to find a collaborative partner to help us deliver more waterholes in a shorter period of time, although we are making some progress in this area, we still need the help of our loyal supporters to help us deliver our next waterhole project. Without your help we won’t be able to start work on our next waterhole before the drought season takes hold. It is a lot to ask but if everyone who received this project report donated £260 (US$350) each we would be able to start work on our next waterhole within a month. We know that some of you are runners, swimmers and keen cyclists and as the weather improves you’ll be keen to get out more so could we ask you to become a Tigers4Ever fundraiser https://www.globalgiving.org/dy/v2/fundraisers/start/?fundraiser.projids=34315 and ask your friends, work colleagues and family to donate to your fundraiser in lieu of sponsoring your activity, please? Remember, once a tiger becomes a habitualised predator of domestic livestock it will create human-tiger conflict with every kill and every angry farmer will only tolerate so much, so by delivering more waterholes we are reducing this risk and improving the long term survival chances of wild tigers in Bandhavgarh.

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 have dried up before January drew to a close. Lakes and ponds are also beginning to dry up, as plentiful water is replaced by long sandy banks leading to either a small puddle or a dry sandy basin. As the dry season takes hold, human-animal conflict will increases day by day as herbivores enter the villages in search of water and feast on the crops whilst there. Predators will inevitably follow and kill the livestock which lacks the instinct to run away. If it happens just once, the farmers and villagers who suffer the loss might be appeased by the compensation, but it will set 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 tigers or leopards (and their cubs) when they return to finish their meals.

Our experience tells us that prevention is better than compensation and our permanent wildlife waterholes provide a means of prevention. When prey animals have adequate water resources inside the protected areas of the national park they don’t need to enter the villages to search for it. Likewise, if the prey hasn’t wandered away the predators will have plenty of food nearby and won’t need to enter the villages to look for it. By providing year round water, we help to keep wildlife including tigers away from traps and snares; AND eliminate retaliatory poisonings by villagers disgruntled by the loss of their livestock. There will always be exceptions but by keeping these to a minimum and working with the authorities to ensure the villagers receive prompt and adequate compensation, we are keeping wild tigers alive.

It is five months until the start of the monsoon rains, when these water sources will replenish naturally, in the interim tigers and their prey will be dependent on the waterholes sourced from underground streams and wells, but tiger-tiger conflict is an issue too. Tigers find themselves competing for the same prey at the same waterholes and when there is insufficient to go round, tigers will fight each other for prey, for territory, for a mate, or just for dominance. These fights are often short but brutal and it is not uncommon for one tiger to die from the inflicted wounds. We don’t want to seem like it is all doom and gloom, but we have to face facts we are witnessing an unprecedented cub survival rate right now which means that tiger numbers are at the highest for over 30 years, but tigers need space, prey and water to flourish. Together we can give them what they need if we can deliver up to ten more permanent waterholes, starting with the next.

To date, we have raised £2871 (US$3790) of our £10560 (US$13250) target to complete our next waterhole so we really need your help to enable us to start work before the drought takes hold and human-animal conflict becomes the norm. It is a huge ask, especially after Christmas, but if each of our supporters could help us to raise £260 (US$350) 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 GlobalGiving’s Little By Little Campaign is on the way (23-27 March 2020), and any new unique donations up to £38 (US$50) which we receive online during the campaign for our waterhole project at: https://goto.gg/34315 will qualify for a matched funding bonus of 50% during that week (on donations above £38/US$50 will receive 50% matched bonus funds to a maximum of $25 throughout the campaign). 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 a large donation but we don’t want you to feel like you can’t help; every donation which we receive will have an impact for wild tigers no matter how large or small the donation is. So please, don’t hesitate to help, the drought season will take hold before we know it and without water wild tigers lives will be at risk. Please also share our project link: https://goto.gg/34315 with your family, friends, colleagues and especially when you are posting on social media.

We will continue our quest to find a major donor or project sponsor, in the meantime, but have no fear, if we find a major donor and achieve our fundraising target we’ll be able to build not one but two permanent wildlife waterholes before the 2020 drought season takes hold.

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 also helping to reduce the impact of climate change and g to reduce 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.

Young Tiger with a Deer Kill
Young Tiger with a Deer Kill

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Jan 6, 2020

It's Cold Out There

Mist and fog make it difficult to see wildlife
Mist and fog make it difficult to see wildlife

Happy New Year to you all, I hope that it has started well and that you’re sticking to your new year’s resolutions, if you made them? January is always a time when we set out all the things that we’d like to happen in the coming year, and we’re no different at Tigers4Ever. Of course, the underlying objective of giving wild tigers a wild future remains the same but we reflect on what we have done in the previous year and see what needs to change to address the challenges we will face over the next 12 months. Thank to everyone who donated during our GivingTuesday and Year End fundraising campaigns, the money raised together with bonus matched funds will help us to keep our anti-poaching patrols protecting wild tigers throughout January and February 2020.

We don’t like to go on about the weather but Bandhavgarh has been experiencing some of the coldest days and nights on record for over a month now. I was somewhat shocked to learn just a few days ago that the overnight temperature in the north of England was more than double the similar temperature in Bandhavgarh. I definitely don’t like the cold, as I am sure that many of you feel the same? We were pleased therefore to have added warm thick jumpers and jackets to our patrollers uniforms in late 2018. The brave men and women who risk their lives to protect the wild tigers certainly need their warm clothing right now. A donation of just £15/US$20 can buy a thick warm jacket to protect our patrollers from the freezing temperatures during their night and early morning patrols (https://goto.gg/28767). Daytime temperatures are beginning to increase but it is nowhere near as warm as usual for this time of year. The last time we experienced a similar cold snap to this was in 2018 when it was followed by extreme heat, drought and some of the highest temperatures on record throughout February – the end of June. Our wildlife waterholes will be an essential component for wild tiger conservation if this extreme drought period repeats again in 2020; you can learn more about how our waterholes sustain wildlife and reduce human-animal conflict here:https://www.GlobalGiving.org/projects/water-for-bandhavgarhs-tigers/.

You magnificent support throughout the course of this project has helped us to achieve 91.5% of our fundraising total, with £8791 of £9600 (US$11502 of US$12550) raised. The challenges we will face over the coming months will be very different from the end of 2019 because freezing cold overnight and early morning temperatures and fog will play a big part in increasing the dangers for both the wild tigers and our patrollers; but by the end of February with many natural water resources running dry wild animals will be more unpredictable as they search for water and food. It still seems strange to talk about freezing 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) and this year daytime temperatures are only reaching 20°C (68°F) instead of the usual 27°C (81°F) for this time of year. For those of us who live in a temperate climate like the UK or Canada/Northern USA, we probably think daytime temperatures of 20°C (68°F) aren’t bad at all for January, but imagine temperatures of 0°C (32°F), or below, overnight and no heating and things don’t seem so rosy anymore. Our patrollers don’t complain they are grateful to share a campfire with forest Department rangers at the forest lookout posts whilst they eat the hot nutritious meals which we provide for them whilst they are on duty. Did you know that for £40/US$54 it is possible to feed a team of anti-poaching patrollers with nutritious hot meals which they are on duty, something which is vital when they are patrolling for 12 hours in such cold conditions (https://goto.gg/28767). Often the rangers will share a cup of chai with our patrollers before joining them in the patrol of the nearby forest. By working together we can ensure that vital information about wildlife movements and miscreant activities are shared. This helps to enhance the safety of both Tigers4Ever patrollers and forest department rangers.

Study warm boots are like heavy coats essential wear for our Anti-Poaching Patrollers during the freezing cold night and early morning patrols. As the winter draws to a close, we will check the uniforms of our patrollers and replace worn out boots and clothing. 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 and that is when we need a few extra donations to help. A donation of just £114 (US$153) can help us to provide a full summer uniform and equipment for one patroller, this rises to £154 (US$208) if sturdy warm boots and a thick coat/jumper are also needed https://goto.gg/28767. We can all relate to how essential a warm coat and sturdy shoes are on a freezing cold night or morning….

In recent years, there has been a peak in miscreant activity following Christmas and New Year so our night patrollers have to be on high alert for illegal loggers and would be poachers moving around the forest under the cover of darkness. It is particularly important to eliminate both these risks before poachers have a chance to lay their traps and snares. Our patrollers are always keen to let miscreants know about the potential consequences of their activities on the wildlife, the forest and their own safety.

The early morning mists and fog, which are an increasing feature of the cold winter months in Bandhavgarh, also present 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 of 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. If you have read our earlier reports, you will know that tigers are crepuscular hunters, i.e. they usually 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 97% 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 with our current funding levels so we need your help. To meet the increased demand we 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, and we are still a long way short of our fundraising target for this too. Our fundraising efforts over the Year End Campaign (including Giving Tuesday) focussed on raising funds for our Anti-Poaching Patrols and it seems that we will have to step up our efforts in the first quarter of 2020 too. If you have given up something for January would you consider making a donation to our anti-poaching patrols https://goto.gg/28767) from the money you save? Or perhaps if you are trying to lose weight, get fit or targeting another personal goal you could set up a fundraising page at: https://www.GlobalGiving.org/dy/v2/fundraisers/start/?fundraiser.projids=34704 to help us to continue our vital patrolling throughout the next few 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 Christmas to pay for in recent weeks, so if you can’t donate large amounts right now, perhaps you could consider a small donation each month instead 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, Sandip and the rest of our anti-poaching patrol team.

Warm Jackets are Essential in Winter
Warm Jackets are Essential in Winter
Young Tigers in the Lush Undergrowth
Young Tigers in the Lush Undergrowth

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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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