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Jul 10, 2019

Tiger-Tiger Conflict & Peak Poaching Season

Tiger cubs learning how to defend themselves
Tiger cubs learning how to defend themselves

The drought season is almost over with heavy monsoon rains expected any day. With the rains will come new problems for our patrollers to address: it is harder to spot the tracks of would be miscreants because the heavy rains wash these away quickly; the patrolling vehicles aquaplane in the surface water and mud; visibility is down to very few metres (about 6 feet) in heavy rainfall so the risk of wildlife encounters increases; lightning fells trees blocking tracks and roads whilst endangering life too; and if that isn’t enough to contend with it is peak poaching season too! It isn’t all bad news though, wild tiger numbers in Bandhavgarh have almost doubled in the 4 years we have been conducting our patrols, so we must be getting something right, especially with poaching and retaliatory killings on the increase elsewhere….. 

We’ve already had some heavy pre-monsoon rain making visibility difficult for our patrollers in June, none the less they are on high alert because all kinds of miscreant activity increases in the lead up to and during the monsoon period. Once again, our patrollers found evidence of encroachment into protected tiger forest habitat from the villages in the buffer forest around Bandhavgarh, this has been detailed and reported to officials in the forest department who will take steps to reverse the encroachment and reclaim the land. Newly planted areas of the previously denuded forest were also showing signs of cattle encroachment which is having a significant impact on the recovery of the forest. If we can double our patrols during the monsoon period we will be able to monitor this more closely to catch the culprits in the act. To ensure that we can double our patrols we need to raise £2268 ($3040) to cover our additional costs during the monsoon period starting right now, if you feel able to help please donate now at: https://goto.gg/34704 all amounts will help our quest no matter how large or small the donation.

Wild tiger numbers have almost doubled in Bandhavgarh during the time whilst we have been helping to give wild tigers wild futures there, this has been helped significantly by cub mortality rates which have seen almost all cubs born in the last 3 years surviving to adulthood. We recently received news about the patter of even more tiny tiger paws when one of the tigresses in the buffer forest gave birth to five cubs. This brings the number of cubs in pristine tiger habitat to 41, with more cubs expected soon as we’ve received plenty of reports of tigers mating over the last few months. It will be a challenge for both the mother (of the 5 cubs) and our patrollers to keep them safe throughout the monsoon period, but a challenge which our patrollers are ready for. We are delighted to say that the all the females with cubs living in the areas where Tigers4Ever has constructed permanent wildlife waterholes are doing well and the cubs are growing up quickly. You can read more about our waterhole project progress here: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/water-for-bandhavgarhs-tigers/reports/#menu. It really has been a bumper year for tiger cub survival in Bandhavgarh, which means that our patrols now have many more than 100 wild tigers (including cubs) to protect from harm.

Just this week, our patrollers found some discarded metal wire on a tiger trail, thankfully it wasn’t a snare, but it reaffirms why we need to be extra vigilant at this time of year. It isn’t uncommon during the monsoon period for villagers to set traps to catch wild boar and deer which come to the villages to raid the food crops, sadly these snares and traps can be indiscriminate and have killed tigers and leopards in the past. As a matter of course, our patrollers scour the periphery of the villages in and around the buffer forest searching for these ill devices and those who have laid them. With over 70 villages to check, this is no easy task, especially during the heavy rains of the monsoon. Our brave patrollers are not deterred by the challenge, they even scour through the tangled lantana bushes looking for traps and snares, and patrol along the power lines which transect the forest looking for signs of tethered snares. Canes and head-torches are invaluable equipment during these searches, as available light is low which results in poor visibility and an increased risk of the patroller stepping into a trap intended to kill a wild animal. We are eternally grateful for the bravery and ingenuity of the men and women Tigers4Ever patrollers who risk their lives each day to ensure that wild tigers are safe. Did you know that it costs us just £123 ($165) to provide a patroller with full uniform and equipment (including vital head-torch, spare batteries and cane) which usually lasts for up to 3 years?If you would like to help us to provide vital equipment for our patrollers, please donate now at: https://goto.gg/34704 every little helps.

For those of you who have been following the progress about our Senior Anti-Poaching Patroller, Ravi, who was beaten up by poachers towards the end of 2018, he is still receiving specialist treatment for his injuries at a hospital in Jabalpur. We know that like us, you wish him a speedy recovery and hope that he will be fit, healthy and back protecting Bandhavgarh’s wild tigers again as soon as he is able.

Before we close, just a little reminder that peak poaching season is already upon us. We are already on high alert, and we are trying to double our patrols for the duration of the monsoon period. Elsewhere, the poachers have started early, with more than 7 tiger deaths reported already this month. This news is devastating in its own right but when we think about the 41 small cubs who could so easily be orphaned if their mothers were to be poached, the impact just doesn’t bear thinking about! We’ve already asked our patrollers to be on high alert for new miscreant or suspicious activity and tethered snare traps, it is now with some urgency that we therefore ask if you could spare £20/US$26, or more if you can afford it, after reading this report to ensure that we can double our patrolling before the poachers strike in Bandhavgarh: https://goto.gg/34704. We really want to ensure that the 41 plus tiny tiger cubs grow up safely; and that their parents are around to protect them whilst they grow. Your donation 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 today. It is more than 21 months since the last tiger was poached in Bandhavgarh which together with our record of 48 months without a retaliatory poisoning is a great achievement on the part of our patrollers. We hope that we can raise sufficient funds to keep this exemplary record going.

I can’t sign off without thanking you all for your continued amazing support and donations, which enable us to give wild tigers a wild future. I know that many of you will have holidays/vacations to pay for right now, 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. Finally, I would like to thank you again on behalf of the wild tigers, which we are keeping safe; 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.

Patrols need to check tiger waterholes for snares
Patrols need to check tiger waterholes for snares
Tiger cubs struggle to survive without mothers
Tiger cubs struggle to survive without mothers

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Jun 19, 2019

Keeping Wild Tigers Safe and Alive

One of 4 Waterholes being filled by our Solar Pump
One of 4 Waterholes being filled by our Solar Pump

In the last three months there hasn’t been any rainfall at all in Bandhavgarh, one by one the natural water sources such as rivers and streams have run dry. Every year, the drought season seems to be getting longer whilst the monsoon rains are getting shorter and lighter. Climate change is certainly evident right now in wild tiger territory. Thankfully, our efforts over the last 18 months have ensured that wild tigers and the other animals which share their forest home have permanent year round water supplies even when the rivers have run dry.

Our representatives in India recently spoke to a crew of filmmakers in Bandhavgarh who told them that without the Tigers4Ever waterholes they wouldn’t have seen any tigers to film over the last two months. It is good news that our waterholes have helped the filmmakers to get footage to bring wild tigers into your living rooms but more importantly it is better news that for 32 wild tigers and countless other wild animals we have helped to reduce human-animal conflict. Our waterholes have kept the tigers and other animals out of the villages where they would eat livestock and crops respectively, and importantly at this time of year, as peak poaching season approaches, our waterholes are helping to keep tigers and other animals safe from poachers’ snares and traps and would be poisoners.

In our last report, we told you how the solar powered borehole pump which we installed in the Tala Zone of Bandhavgarh National park was working so well that was filling two waterholes simultaneously, well the news is even better. We recently learnt that our solar powered borehole pump is so efficient that it is currently filling two additional waterholes simultaneously bring the total number of waterholes benefitting from our latest project to four. These additional waterholes are within 1km (0.6 miles) of the pump, but nonetheless are providing much needed water for wildlife in this period of extended drought. This continues to give greater availability of water for wild tigers and their prey including one tigress and her four cubs we mentioned in our last report. This is especially important as the cubs grow because she needs to kill large prey frequently and the waterholes ensure that there is plenty around. We recently learnt that she had killed seven large prey animals over a period of days which meant 6 tigers including the cubs’ father didn’t go hungry. This also helps to avoid tiger-tiger conflict from encroachment into other tiger territories and keeps her cubs safe. The more waterholes we can provide for wild tigers and other wildlife the more chance we have of reducing human-animal conflict as the drought season takes hold, too.

Since our last report on our waterhole project we have received £620 (US$830) in new donations so we are starting to look for the next permanent wildlife waterhole location in Bandhavgarh, whilst we continue to raise funds which will enable work to start.

We launched our campaign to provide permanent water resources for tigers and other wildlife eleven months ago and have managed to raise £1128 ($1457) of our £10,560 ($14,000) target and the hot dry season has really taken hold with daytime temperatures already exceeding 48°C (118.4°F) and natural water sources dry. Our four waterholes in the Tala range plus the two waterholes constructed this time last year in the Magdhi range are now providing year-round permanent water for just under a third of the total number of wild tigers in Bandhavgarhplus countless other wildlife. In time we would like to ensure that every wild tiger in Bandhavgarh has access to safe drinking water year round, but for now we are focussing on providing another waterhole in a critical need area which will help up to 15 tigers including their cubs, bringing the total number of tigers helped to 47. Ideally we would like to construct this waterhole before the end of 2019 but in order to do this we must raise sufficient funds before the end of September but we still need to raise another £9432 (US$12543) in the current campaign to make this possible.

The effects of climate change are even more evident in Bandhavgarh right now, with shorter drier monsoon periods and longer extreme drought conditions being just two of the annual events. There are other consequences of this for tigers too, as natural water sources dry up, herbivores delay breeding because the conditions to support new-borns are not ideal, in time this will impact the tigers’ prey-base reducing food availability for a growing tiger population and ultimately leading to increased human-tiger conflict. In other parts of India, there have been increasing numbers of reports of tiger deaths due to tiger-tiger territorial conflict and tiger cannibalism in one national park where tigers have killed and eaten up to 17 other tigers in 2019 alone. We want to act now before the impacts of climate change and harsh conditions affect Bandhavgarh’s animal population too, but to make a real difference which will count we will need your help.   

Permanent water resources for wildlife are essential for reducing human-animal conflict; as water disappears, prey animals enter villages in search of water and consume precious crops. Predators, such as tigers and leopards follow the prey into the villages as they hunt for food, but when the prey runs away tigers kill domestic livestock, which doesn’t runaway instead. Once a tiger has found easy prey such as livestock it will have a tendency to return to the village over and over again in search of food…. Human-tiger conflict results and the tiger (and its cubs) are at increased risk of retaliatory poisoning, from disgruntled farmers, as a counter-measure to prevent this recurring. We need to ensure that the increasing population of wild tigers in Bandhavgarh has sufficient water year round to sustain it and its prey base. Our waterholes for wild tigers and other wildlife continue to be of critical importance in reducing human-animal conflict, especially as the hot dry season takes hold.

With the lives of 32 wild tigers including cubs already being saved by the permanent wildlife waterholes we funded between February 2018 and June 2019, we now have the opportunity, with your help, to increase this number to 47 tigers saved, which would be amazing as it is almost half the current number of tigers in Bandhavgarh. We have already identified a potential site for our next waterhole project, where there are limited natural water sources but an abundance of tigers exists, as 2 tigresses with young cubs have neighbouring territories and it could additionally help up to reduce tiger-tiger conflict between four dominant male tigers who’s territories are precariously close to each other. Providing such a permanent wildlife waterhole could save the lives of 15 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 due to improved cub survival rates, 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 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 the waterholes funded in 2018 and 2019 by funding at least one more waterhole before the end of 2019, but we cannot do this without the funds to complete the work. We need to raise sufficient funds before the end of September which means another £9432 (US$12543) in the current campaign 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: £10/US$13 could help us to drill 1 metre (39.5 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 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.

Tigress & Cubs in Tigers4Ever Waterhole
Tigress & Cubs in Tigers4Ever Waterhole
Tiger cub scent-marks Tigers4Ever Waterhole Sign
Tiger cub scent-marks Tigers4Ever Waterhole Sign

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May 15, 2019

Heatwave, Drought, Fires & Lots of Cubs

Tigers4Ever Patrollers at a Firebreak Barrier
Tigers4Ever Patrollers at a Firebreak Barrier

The hot dry season is into its third month already and despite a recent scare from the passing Cyclone Fani, Bandhavgarh has seen very little rain for months. The rivers and streams have long since run dry whilst reservoirs and lakes are at an annual low. The four waterholes funded by Tigers4Ever in the last two and a half years are providing much needed respite for the parched land and thirsty animals. It is good news that up to 34 wild tigers including cubs are benefitting from these waterholes on a daily basis, as these waterholes are a key component in reducing human-animal conflict. More waterholes are still needed and we are trying to raise sufficient funds over the next few months to ensure that we can build at least one more waterhole before the drought season begins in 2020. You can read more about our waterhole project progress here: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/water-for-bandhavgarhs-tigers/reports/#menu.

The good news for Bandhavgarh is that more and more cubs have survived to adulthood since we started our Anti-Poaching Patrolling back in July 2015; even better news is the number of tigers with cubs right now with more than 36 young tigers growing up in pristine tiger habitat. It is hard work for the tiger mums to raise their youngsters, especially at this time of year when the forest is parched and there is little food for their herbivore prey. The tinder dry leaves on the forest floor can spontaneously combust in the heat leading to devastating forest fires in which young frightened cubs can perish. Only last year, an experienced tigress lost all four of her 6 week old cubs when a forest fire took hold whilst she was out hunting. The inexperienced cubs were caught in the centre of the flames and by the time the tigress returned it was too late for her tiny offspring. A stark reminder of how precious every tiger cub is and how important preventing the spread of forest fires is to ensuring the future of a healthy tiger population. For this reason our patrollers have been actively involved in forest fire prevention and fire fighting since March.

Our patrollers are always on the lookout for warning signs like an unattended camp or cooking fire, a carelessly discarded cigarette, littering in the forest or the early signs of a natural fire due to parched vegetation. When a fire is spotted, the patrollers quickly mobilise to the area calling for support from forest department rangers en-route, if it appears that the fire will spread (due to windy conditions and the location of the fire) then the first task is to light and extinguish firebreaks which will limit the spread of the raging fire. The second stage is to extinguish the flames as quickly as possible before there is a change in wind direction which would turn the fire away from the firebreaks. By creating these fire boundaries, our patrollers increase the survival chances of the wildlife in the burning forest giving them an escape route to safety. Many trees, plants and insects are still casualties of these forest fires but limiting the spread of the fire will save thousands of animals including tigers every time.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though, around the Tigers4Ever waterholes and other water bodies which still have some natural water left, the vegetation provides much needed food for the herbivores, and in turn the tigers who need to hunt to feed themselves and their hungry cubs. It will be at least 7 weeks before the onset of the monsoon rains rejuvenates the parched landscape and brings new life to the forest; in the meantime our patrollers continue to be on high alert for fire-fighting duties. It means that no two days are the same for our tiger protectors and that each problem they face is just a solution waiting to be found. We are eternally grateful for the bravery and ingenuity of our patrollers as they carry out their duties to keep wild tigers safe, and when we ask them if they are afraid they simply reply: “No, not of the forest, not of the tigers, it is the humans we fear most because they are the ones who are unpredictable and can be violent!” It certainly makes you think!

I know that some of you have been following the reports about our Senior Anti-Poaching Patroller, Ravi, who was beaten up by poachers towards the end of 2018. Although, the perpetrators are now behind bars, Ravi still suffers each day from the pain of his fractured eye socket and skull, he has currently taken some time off to seek specialist help at the hospital in Jabalpur. We’ve sent him our best wishes for a speedy recovery and I’m sure that we all want to see him fit, healthy and back protecting Bandhavgarh’s wild tigers again as soon as he is able.

Before our next project report, peak poaching season will already be upon us. We already know that we need to be on high alert at this time of year, which is why we try to double our patrols during the monsoon period. This year, the poachers have started early, only yesterday we heard that a young tigress had been electrocuted in a tethered snare near Satna, in the Satpura Tiger Reserve, some 150 miles northwest of Bandhavgarh. This news was devastating in its own right but it was the third snaring of a tiger in addition to a leopard snaring in the same area in the last two weeks. 150 miles away is far too close for comfort, so we’re already asking our patrollers to be on high alert for new miscreant or suspicious activity and tethered snare traps. It is with some urgency that we therefore ask if you could spare £20/US$26 after reading this letter to ensure that we can double our patrolling before these poachers strike in Bandhavgarh: https://goto.gg/28767 we really want to ensure that the 36 plus tiny tiger cubs grow up safely; and that their parents are around to protect them whilst they grow. Your donation 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 today. It will soon be 20 months since the last tiger was poached in Bandhavgarh which together with our record of 47 months without a retaliatory poisoning is a great achievement on the part of our patrollers. We hope that we can raise sufficient funds to keep this exemplary record going.

I can’t sign off without thanking you all for your continued amazing support and donations, which enable us to give wild tigers a wild future. I know that many of you will have holidays/vacations to pay for right now, 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. Finally, I would like to thank you again on behalf of the wild tigers, which we are keeping safe; 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.

Tigers at Tigers4Ever funded natural Waterhole
Tigers at Tigers4Ever funded natural Waterhole

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