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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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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