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Sep 3, 2019

Preparing for the Next Drought

Tigress & 2 cubs playing in Tigers4Ever Waterhole
Tigress & 2 cubs playing in Tigers4Ever Waterhole

It may seem a little strange that two months into the monsoon period, when 99.9% of all the annual rainfall in Bandhavgarh occurs, we are talking about preparing for the next drought. Well, our experience over the last four years tells us that it is essential that we do so. In fact, we are nine weeks into the monsoon period and so far there has been just 760mm (just under 30 inches) of rainfall which is less than half of that which is expected across the 13 week period with only four more weeks to go. So we need to prepare ourselves just in case, like in 2018, there is no rainfall again in September.

Right now, rivers and streams are replenished; but they are not overflowing or bursting their banks, as has recently been seen here in the UK! It is a different story, however, for the lakes, ponds and other waterholes which are yet to reach full capacity, save for those waterholes with a solar borehole pump like the Tigers4Ever waterholes at Rajbehra, Sukhi Patiha and Arharia, which are full right now. We are grateful for the help of all our supporters without whom we couldn’t have made these waterholes possible. Waterholes like ours continue to be invaluable for tigers and other wildlife especially following poor monsoon rainfall.

If the September monsoon rains are poor, we would expect to see natural water sources such as rivers, streams and small ponds beginning to run dry before the end of this year. Wild animals, including tigers, will then start to feel the impact of the drought from January onwards. Secure in the knowledge that, thanks to your help, up to 33 tigers, (including cubs) and their prey will benefit from water in the seven waterholes serviced by our borehole pumps in Tala (2 large and 2 smaller waterholes); and in Magdhi (1 large and 2 small – medium waterholes). Now though, we must consider the other 70 plus tigers, their cubs and their prey and how they will be impacted by the next drought.

We have identified a location at the crossroads of the territories of 3 alpha male tigers where we know that there are two females each with 3 cubs and another female who is expecting cubs, plus four other tigers which would benefit from the provision of a permanent year round supply of water. There is currently a large natural waterhole and a smaller man-made waterhole near to the site. Both of these are currently filled by water tankers throughout the dry season. The problem with this is if the 16 plus tigers become habitualised to the tankers, and lose their instinctive fear of human vehicles, something which would ultimately make them more vulnerable to poaching. We are currently trying to establish the suitability of this site for a solar powered borehole pump to remove the need for these tankers. If the underground water table isn’t close enough to the surface we will look at an alternative location close by which will also mean that we will need to construct a new waterhole too. Please help us to make this possible by donating now at: https://goto.gg/34315, thank you.

We have also been asked to help provide a solar powered borehole pump system at another large waterhole currently used by 11 plus tigers including cubs. Again this waterhole is filled by water tankers as the natural sources dry up. To install solar powered borehole pump systems at these two waterholes will cost us up to £18750 (US$25125) dependent on the depth of the bore-well. If we need to construct a new waterhole, in addition, the cost of the combined project rises to £21625 (US$28980), so we have quite some way to go before we can help to protect another 23 plus tigers with the provision of permanent year-round water. We have also identified two further locations, where there is currently neither a natural water source nor man-made waterholes, where we would like to build future waterholes for wild tigers. It is our long term objective to ensure that every wild tiger in Bandhavgarh will have access to permanent year round water.

In an ideal world, we would commence work on our next major waterhole project at the beginning of October 2019, but we are someway short of our fundraising target to do this so we will be actively fundraising for this project during Daan Utsav (the Indian equivalent of Giving Tuesday) at the beginning of October, and throughout the period leading up to this. If you can help by donating anything at all it would be much appreciated: https://goto.gg/34315 remember that every £20 (US$26) donated will help us to drill 2 metres (79 inches) of bore-well to help us reach the underground water table.

There has also been a nineties themed concert/disco arranged in Porthcawl on the 08 November 2019 to raise funds for Tigers4Ever’s waterhole and anti-poaching patrol projects, so we are hoping that this will be well attended by our supporters in South Wales. Tickets are priced at £10 each plus the booking fee and are available here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/back-to-the-90s-dance-party-tickets-69630166703 if anyone wishes to purchase one or more and go along.

Since we launched our campaign to provide permanent water resources for tigers and other wildlife fourteen months ago we’ve managed to raise £1770 ($2372) of our £10,560 ($14,000) target. Our existing waterholes are providing year-round permanent water for just under a third of the wild tigers in Bandhavgarhplus countless other wildlife but we would still like to ensure that every wild tiger in Bandhavgarh has access to safe drinking water year round. At present our focus is on providing the next waterhole in a critical need area to help more than 16 tigers including cubs, and to bring the total number of tigers helped to close to fifty. If we are to ensure that the wild tigers have water before the onset of the drought season then we need to construct the next waterhole before the end of 2019; for this to happen we need to raise sufficient funds before the end of October which means that we need another £8790 (US$11628) in the next eight weeks to make this possible.

Climate change is impacting Bandhavgarh every year now, with shorter drier monsoon periods and longer extreme drought conditions being just two of the annual events seen over the last five years. The unseen consequences of climate change include the impact on tigers and their prey when natural water sources dry up. Herbivores (the main prey of tigers) can delay breeding because the conditions to support new-borns are not ideal, which over time impacts prey numbers thus reducing the availability of food for a growing tiger population and ultimately leading to increased human-tiger and tiger-tiger conflict. Thus, permanent water resources for wildlife are fundamental in the fight to reduce human-animal conflict. Without this, prey animals enter the villages in search of water and, whilst there, consume precious crops. Tigers and leopards naturally follow their prey into the villages as they hunt for food, but when the prey runs, the tigers kill domestic livestock, which doesn’t run. Once tigers find easy prey such as livestock, they have a tendency to return to the village over and over again in search of easy meals…. Human-tiger conflict results and the tigers (and their cubs) are at increased risk of retaliatory poisoning, from disgruntled farmers, who seek to prevent this recurring.

Since the 2019 monsoon began we have already seen 3 tigers die in Bandhavgarh as a result of tiger-tiger conflict: an intruding male attacked the cubs of another male in order to mate with their mother, however, the tigress returned to the scene as the male was attacking the second cub defending it with her life. The tigress and the first cub died almost immediately, but the second cub survived for a few weeks and received assistance from the vet but sadly died from his injuries just a week later. This was just the latest in a series of battles to keep the cubs alive that this tigress had had, and sadly due to limited water sources in her territory she came into frequent conflict with other tigers…..

You have probably seen the recent tiger census results in the international press and media, with India’s wild tiger population up by a third. Good news indeed, conservation efforts are working, however, this increase needs to be sustained and even extended if wild tigers are to have a genuine chance of a wild future. The quieter side of the story didn’t make as many headlines; sadly, in the same four years in which the wild tiger population has grown there has also been a four percent loss of wild tiger habitat. The result is that tigers have lost more than 94% of their native habitat in the last 100 years!

Now we face a new challenge in protecting the increasing wild tiger population in Bandhavgarh; we need to ensure that there is sufficient water year round to sustain the growing tiger population and its prey base. Our waterholes continue to be of critical importance in reducing human-animal conflict, but now they must also help to reduce tiger-tiger conflict before the hot dry season arrives https://goto.gg/34315.

With the lives of 32 wild tigers including cubs already being saved by the permanent wildlife waterholes we funded, with your help, between February 2018 and June 2019, we now have the opportunity to increase this number to 47 tigers saved. This would be amazing as it is almost half the current number of tigers in Bandhavgarh. We have already identified the potential site for our next waterhole project, where there are limited natural water sources and an abundance of tigers. Providing such a permanent wildlife waterhole could save the lives of 16 plus wild tigers in addition to countless other wild animals which form their prey base and share their forest home. Tiger numbers in Bandhavgarh are on the increase, but as mentioned in our previous reports, territorial space is at a premium and tiger-tiger conflict is becoming more frequent. It means that we need to act now to ensure that adequate water is available to sustain an appropriate prey-base without the need for tigers to increase the size of their territories in search of food. We’re also looking at other ways to reduce human-animal conflict through projects to restore depleted tiger habitat, including tree planting which will complement our current waterhole project: https://goto.gg/34315. These projects will need time to help to stabilise prey numbers and lead to future young tigers needing smaller territories. So for now, we are focussing on what we can do to make the most difference this year.

We hope we can build upon the success we’ve already seen with our existing waterholes by funding at least one more waterhole before the end of 2019, but we cannot do this without your help. We need to raise £8790 (US$11628) in the next eight weeks to make this possible. We will look again at offline fundraising activities to boost funds too but hope that some of you will sign up to donate monthly and help us at: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/water-for-bandhavgarhs-tigers/?show=recurring. Even if you can only afford a single donation, why not donate now, and if you are a UK taxpayer you can make your donation worth 25% more to Tigers4Ever at no extra cost to you by adding Gift Aid at: https://goto.gg/34315.

If you feel able to help to make a difference for these precious wild tigers: £20/US$26 could help us to drill 2 metres (79 inches) of borehole, whilst £75/US$107 can help to pay wages to clear a site in preparation for a new waterhole to be constructed. All donations, however large or small, will help us to reduce human-animal conflict and the risk of wild tigers perishing at the hands of humans.

I would like to thank you on behalf of the wild tigers, which we are keeping 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.

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Aug 6, 2019

Monsoon Rains, Miscreants & Hidden Dangers

Young Male Tiger on Alert
Young Male Tiger on Alert

The hot dry season came to an abrupt end in the last week of June, with the first sustained deluge of rainfall which signified the onset of the 2019 monsoon season. It brought some much needed respite from the searing heat and high humidity which had made conditions extremely difficult for all since the end of May. With the rains came the inevitable thunderstorms and trees being felled with periodic regularity by lightning. This is quite a dangerous time for our patrollers, not just because the onset of the monsoon brings with it the start of peak poaching season, but because of the dangerous weather conditions in which our patrollers work. It is not uncommon for rivers and streams to break their banks with the sudden rapid swell which can occur within minutes of the rain starting. We have seen first-hand how a dry river or dusty road can become fast flowing rapids within as little as 10 minutes. Cyclists literally have to dismount and carry their bikes above their heads as they wade through thigh deep water. It is not uncommon for even the four-wheel drive jeeps, used for transport by our anti-poaching patrol teams, to aquaplane in the mud. Visibility is also dramatically reduced during the rains to little more than a few feet (<1 metre), which means that our patrollers must be permanently on high alert for a whole spectrum of dangers.

Miscreant activity always increases during the monsoon rains too, this is partly due to the difficulties patrollers have covering the same distances in the usual time (due to difficult conditions) and partly due to the fact that they think that they less likely to be caught because their footprints are washed away by the heavy rains. It is for these reasons that we ideally like to double our patrolling during the monsoon period, but this is of course only possible if we have funds to cover the extra patrolling. With double patrolling we can cover greater areas to ensure that we are protecting all the areas where Bandhavgarh’s 100+ tigers need to roam freely and safely. Despite a big push to raise funds in the lead up to the monsoon period, and a 50% reduction in patrolling for May and June, to ensure that we could afford to patrol during the monsoon months we have only been able to increase our patrolling by 66% during July.

The 29 July (Global Tiger Day) brought the confirmation of the news we had been anticipating for some time (we already knew that Bandhavgarh’s wild tiger numbers have almost doubled) that wild tiger numbers across the whole of India are up by 33% bring the total number of tigers to 2967 from 2226 at the 2014 census. This increase means that there are inevitably more tigers wandering further afield in search of new territories to call their own. The incidence of tiger-tiger conflict is becoming a more frequent occurrence and in order to sustain these wild tiger numbers many things need to happen and quickly. Firstly, the destruction of wildlife habitat must stop immediately: our patrollers play a key role in this by apprehending miscreants in the forest who are illegally grazing their livestock; woodcutting; logging or stealing areas of land to claim for agriculture. This is a first line defence and is widely acknowledged as a major contributor to the recovery of wild tiger populations. On a larger scale we need to put the case for the tigers to politicians who make decisions to destroy wildlife habitat for industrial schemes and projects. Coal mining is still carried out on a large scale in India and many mines impact wildlife (including tiger) habitat due to open cast mines and the building of roads and railways to move the harvested coal. We must state the case for cleaner greener energy alternatives and the climate protective aspects of planting more trees instead of chopping down the existing forests. India is all too aware of the devastating effects of extreme weather with cyclone Fani sweeping through the heart of India just a few months ago whilst Kaziranga in Assam is currently under a metre (39 inches) of water for the second successive year with hundreds of animals including wild tigers drowned. We now must make the politicians see the true value of nature including wild tigers before it is really too late. Finally, we are looking at projects which have a direct impact on human-tiger and tiger-tiger conflict, like our waterhole project: https://goto.gg/34315 where we have an ambitious aim to raise the remaining £8810 (US$11805) by October 2019 so that we can increase the number of locations with permanent year round water for wildlife and thus enable animals to manage with smaller territories. Alongside this project, we are currently evaluating tree planting programmes to help recover tiger habitat lost to fires and illegal logging. We will also look to other organisations with similar goals to see if it is possible to jointly plant safe wildlife corridors to enhance the survival chances of sub-adult male tigers which disperse in search of new territories and females to mate.  

Back to the now: As the monsoon rains continue to fall, it is bringing much needed life to the parched forest with new leaves and grasses in abundance. The monsoon season also brings a rise in activity in other parts of the forest with poisonous snakes and biting insects at their height of activity. A conversation with the Field Director a short time ago revealed that this period is one of the most dangerous for forest department patrollers as around 20 each year die from snake bites. Scorpions are also highly active during the monsoon rains and patrollers need to be extra vigilant especially when performing foot patrols. A few years ago, we tried to obtain snake-proofed socks for the patrollers but we couldn’t find a supplier who had any which were not made in China and would be suitable for use in the Indian jungle, the search goes on. In the meantime, all Tigers4Ever patrollers are trained in what to do if they encounter a snake or scorpion; we provide an emergency medical fund in case anyone is bitten and needs anti-venom, and provide them with bright head-torches, sturdy boots and canes to check where they intend to walk. Mosquitoes are also a particular problem at this time of year, especially those carrying infectious diseases such as malaria.

We would of course like to double our patrolling in each of August and September to keep this growing population of wild tigers safe, especially from the increased miscreant activity; higher risk of retaliatory poisoning. To make this possible we’d like to raise £1000 (US$1340) next week (starting 12 August) as this is the start of the GlobalGiving “Little by Little” bonus matched funds campaign when we can earn a 60% bonus in matched funds on donations up to US$50 (£40) making US$50 worth US$80 (£64) at no extra cost to the donor. Donations above $50 (£40) will still qualify for bonus matched funds at 60%, but this will be limited to the first $50 (£40) of your donation. So if you want to make a big impact for wild tigers with a small donation there couldn’t be a better time to donate: https://goto.gg/28767.  

It is with some urgency that we therefore ask if you could spare a few pounds (dollars or euros) after reading this letter to ensure that we can double our patrolling before the poachers strike in Bandhavgarh: https://goto.gg/28767 we really want to ensure that the 41 plus tiny tiger cubs which we are currently aware of, can grow up safely; and that their parents will be around to protect them whilst they grow. Your donation of £20 (US$26) will help us to pay a team of brave patrollers to protect wild tigers for a day and will give you the satisfaction of knowing that you are making a real difference. It is almost 23 months since the last wild tiger was poached in Bandhavgarh (which happened when we couldn’t double our patrols) and it is 50 months since the last retaliatory poisoning of a wild tiger in Bandhavgarh, which is a great achievement on the part of our patrollers. We hope that we can now raise sufficient funds to keep this exemplary record going.

Finally, I would like to thank you all 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 holidays/vacations to pay for, so if you can’t donate £20/US$26 right now, please feel free to donate whatever you can afford, every little really does make a big difference. I know that the wild tigers which we are keeping safe can’t thank you themselves, so I would like to thank you on their behalf; on behalf of the patrollers we are keeping 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.

Tigress & cub share an intimate moment
Tigress & cub share an intimate moment
Alpha male tiger with chittal kill
Alpha male tiger with chittal kill

Links:

Jul 24, 2019

Providing New Opportunities

Tiger cubs Learning valuable life skills
Tiger cubs Learning valuable life skills

In June, we were able to provide education packs for 180 children living with wild tigers, thanks in no small part to your incredible continued support. We had feared for a large part of 2019 that we would only be able to help 35 children from the poorest rural communities to go to school. We are grateful that you rallied around and helped us to help more than four times as many children.

People often say to us, why are you giving education packs to children in the villages? How does this help you to save wild tigers? Well the answers are quite simple really: Firstly, children in the poorest rural communities living with wild tigers often come from large families who can barely afford to put food on the table let alone buy the books and writing materials so their children can go to school. If these children don’t go to school, they will grow up in the villages following exactly in the footsteps of their parents; having large families and being entirely dependent on the land to earn enough money to feed their growing families. Well, the land in the villages isn’t infinite so trees from the forest will be felled to make more space for houses and crops, thus making the tigers’ habitat shrink more and more as each year passes. So, how do the education packs help? I hear you say. Well it means that the children can go to school and their parents can still afford to feed them. Furthermore, in school the children learn about forest ecology, climate change, environmental impact and population growth versus the availability of food, in short they learn to read, write and disseminate information. In the nine years since Tigers4Ever was launched we have seen that educated parents have fewer children some only have one, two or three children whereas uneducated families tend to have between eight and twelve children. So providing education packs reduces habitat destruction AND helps to curb population growth, this was backed up by reductions in the number of children in the villages of Ranchha and Dobha (2018) compared to when we first distributed education packs there in 2012 (Ranchha) and 2013 (Ranchha and Dobha). Secondly, if the children of the villages are to grow up and become future protectors of the forest and wild tigers, they must have an education to secure these jobs. So, by providing education packs to 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.

This year, we distributed education packs to the villages of Ghanghod (65), Barkhera (35) and Damna (45) with the remaining 35 education packs being given to local NGO Global Tiger Conservation Society (GTCS) as part of our ongoing collaboration with them to provide “pop-up” schools in the poorest rural communities. Again, we were pleased to see that our previous visits to the villages has had an impact on the number of children of school age as we had distributed 108 education packs in Ghanghod and 110 education packs in Damna in 2014; in 2015 we distributed 56 education packs in Barkhera and 60 education packs in Damna.

Currently in Bandhavgarh, a new private school is being built where local children will have the opportunity to learn subjects in both English and Hindi. This will be a fee paying school and we are currently in the process of investigating further details about the school, its teachings and its fees. If the school meets our criteria we will be looking into funding annual scholarships for children to attend the school who would otherwise not have the opportunity to go to that school. The new school is set to open its doors for the first time this month so we intend to conduct some performance investigations and feedback studies over the coming months to ensure that it is delivering lessons to the promised standard and to a level which is equal to or better than that which is delivered by the state school in the next town. We hope to be in a better position to report on the potential scholarships in time for the next newsletter, in the interim we will continue to raise funds for the provision of further education packs so that the children from the poorest rural communities will have an opportunity to learn.

If we could raise another £500 (US$670) by 30 May 2019 we would have sufficient funds to provide learning opportunities for another 55 children. So, if once again, we could ask you to forego just one cup of coffee and a cake or sandwich from your favourite coffee store this month and donate what you would have spent there, here instead: https://goto.gg/32565. We know that knowing that you have made a real difference for the future generations of wild tigers will make you feel great too.

If you are planning to get fit for that summer vacation on the beach by doing a fun run, cycle event or something wacky, why not chose to do it as a sponsored event? Perhaps you want to get fit before winter and the extra indulgence which piles on the pounds around the thanksgiving or Christmas holidays, why not fundraise around your weight loss goals as a sponsored event too? You could have fun, achieve your goals and help us to achieve ours too and in the process ensure that we can educate the next generation of wild tiger protectors. It only takes a minute to become a Tigers4Ever fundraiser and you even get your own personal page link to share with your friends and colleagues on social media, etc.  Act now before it is too late for wild tigers by setting up your fundraiser page here: https://www.globalgiving.org/dy/v2/fundraisers/start/?fundraiser.projids=32565.

As we have mentioned previously, the impact of our education project goes well beyond enabling a number of children to attend school, who may not otherwise have chance. It has an impact on the wider tiger community around Bandhavgarh too, as we source all the contents for inclusion in the Tigers4Ever education packs from local suppliers in India, and create employment for those who wrap the education packs and deliver them to our Indian representatives for distribution.

We still hope to provide education packs for another 320 children in the villages around Bandhavgarh in time for the start of the next school year, but we can only do this if we can raise sufficient funds, a further £2003 (US$2685) is still needed for this. Just £10/$13 will help us to provide education packs for 3 of the youngest group of children living with wild tigers. If you would like to make a new one-off donation please visit https://goto.gg/32565 where you can seemany examples of how your donation will help. If you are thinking of helping on a regular basis, matched funds are available from GlobalGiving partners for your donation if you donate monthly for at least 4 months, e.g. a donation of £10 (US$13) per month would be worth £50 (US$65) to Tigers4Ever at month 4, including the bonus matched funds. If you are a taxpayer, living in the UK, you can make an even greater impact by adding Gift Aid to your donation (at no extra cost to you), which would mean with matched funds your £10 monthly donation could be worth £60 to Tigers4Ever after just 4 months (including bonus matched funds and Gift Aid); which would enable your donation to have 50% greater impact for wild tigers!Education is a vital component of saving wild tigers because humans have the greatest influence on the future survival of tigers in the wild. We know that educated families have fewer children.

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 the education packs we distribute.

Kids in the Pop-up School get our Education Packs
Kids in the Pop-up School get our Education Packs

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