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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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May 10, 2019

A New School Year - the Next Challenge

Tiger Relaxing in the Forest
Tiger Relaxing in the Forest

In February, we feared that we wouldn’t raise sufficient funds to provide any more than 35 education packs for the poorest children living with wild tigers. Well, it has been a real challenge but thanks to your kind donations we will be able to provide more than double that number, which means that at least 100 of the poorest children living with wild tigers will have the chance to go to school when the new school year starts at the beginning of July. Thank you for helping us to do this, your invaluable support means the world to us.

We have ordered the ecology books for the education packs for the older children today; this will give them the opportunity to see the value of the forest and its wild inhabitants, whilst appreciating the fact that every single action in the forest by them and their families has a consequence. We hope that receiving these education packs and ecology books helps the children to become future protectors of the forest and the wild tigers which inhabit it, rather than destroyers of the forest landscape to make space for agriculture and industry.

Sadly, we haven’t raised enough yet to be able to provide education packs for our collaboration with GTCS who run the “pop-up” schools in the poorest rural communities without access to a school for the hundreds of children growing up there. These education packs are a vital component of this project because the basic writing materials are used over and over by many children attending the “pop-up schools” so that the largest number of children possible can benefit. If we can donate just 50 education packs for our collaboration with GTCS then as many as 250 children could benefit from learning about nature and ecology plus gain basic reading and writing skills at these “pop-up” schools. If we could raise another £160 (US$215) by 17 May 2019 we would be able to help these children to give learning opportunities where they don’t exist for another year. So could we ask you to forego a coffee or a cake from your favourite coffee store this week and donate what you would have spent here instead: https://goto.gg/32565? We know that knowing that you have made a real difference 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? You could have fun, achieve your goals and help us to achieve ours too by ensuring 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.

We are now selecting one of the small villages around Bandhavgarh which has suffered due to human-animal conflict recently; where we will distribute education packs to at least 100 of the poorest children. It will be a difficult decision because many villages lose crops (and their livelihoods) to persistent crop raids by the herbivores and monkeys, in addition to loos of livestock due to predator (tigers, leopards, wild dogs, etc.) attacks. We will need to use a weighted scale to assess which village has suffered the greatest impact as we are unable to help more than one village this time. Past experience shows that the villages most affected by persistent human-animal conflict are those most likely to leave out baited (poisoned) meat for predators or set a series of wire traps to halt invading animals in their tracks. By helping these villages we hope to mitigate the potential for such retaliatory attacks. We will use the information which we receive form our Anti-Poaching Patrols in this respect as they monitor these potential high risk situations for wild tigers. We know that by providing assistance in affected villages helps the inhabitants to love tigers and other wildlife again, which also reduces the risk of retaliatory action. This year, we will also need to choose our village carefully as distributing education packs to only some children rather than all in a village may have the undesired consequence of inflaming the human-animal conflict situation with the aggrieved parents who can see no benefits of wild tigers as their children have missed out.

As we have mentioned previously, the impact of this 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, and create employment for those who wrap the education packs and deliver them to our Indian representatives for distribution.

Unseasonable weather conditions have continued to make life difficult for everyone living in and around Bandhavgarh, including the tigers and other wildlife, in the last three months. This has led to food scarcity for both humans and wildlife, which has in turn, increased the likelihood of human-animal conflict as both are competing for the same scarce resources. Low crop yields have left uneducated villagers with little money for food and few employment prospects, so they have turned to picking tendu leaves (for Indian tobacco) and mahua flowers (for the manufacture of local alcohol), and harvesting honeycombs from within the tiger forest. The income from such high risk activities is a mere pittance whilst the risk of a tiger or other predator encounter is very high. Villagers earn just Rs.125 (around £1.50/$1.75) for the collection of each 5000 tendu leaves. As previously reported, this puts extreme financial pressures on the poor rural people, so when faced with the prospect of buying basic materials for their children to go to school or feeding the family, the latter always wins, of course.

We still hope to provide education packs for 220 children in the villages around Bandhavgarh in time for the start of the new school year in July 2019, but we can only do this if we can raise sufficient funds, a further £986 (US$1321) 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 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.

Tiger picking up a strange scent on the tree
Tiger picking up a strange scent on the tree

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Apr 16, 2019

Tiger Encounters

Young tiger who had entered a house to get food
Young tiger who had entered a house to get food

Firstly we would like to wish those of our supporters who will be celebrating Passover and Easter a happy and peaceful time. It is hard to believe that we’re already into April, where has 2019 gone so far? It has been a busy first quarter of the year with a great deal happening both in India and the UK in respect of wild tiger conservation, with the building of another Tigers4Ever waterhole which brings the number of tigers with permanent year-round water, funded by Tigers4Ever, in Bandhavgarh to 32.

Next we would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has supported our Anti-Poaching Patrols projects (our first project: https://goto.gg/28767 and this (2019) project https://goto.gg/34704) over the last 16 months. Your tremendous support has enabled us to keep Bandhavgarh’s wild tigers safe from poachers’ snares and traps for 562 days. Not only that, we are delighted to say that our record of working with the communities around Bandhavgarh, who have lost livestock and relatives in tiger attacks, has meant that it has been 1416 days since the last wild tiger died due to a retaliatory poisoning. We couldn’t do this without your valuable support in raising awareness and kind donations.

It is sometimes easy to delight at the significant increase in adult tiger numbers since we started our buffer zone patrolling (the first of its kind in the whole of India), to almost double the number when we first started work in Bandhavgarh; but we must be aware that all of these tigers need space and prey if they are to continue to thrive at their current rate. Tiger-tiger conflict has become more apparent in the last 3 years and it is no longer limited to conflict between males who are vying for the title of “Alpha Male”, but it is also between females who are desperate for enough territory to provide sufficient prey for their offspring. Only last year, the Rajbehra female, star of the BBC documentary “Dynasties” was fatally wounded in a territorial fight with her own daughter, Solo.

Inevitably, tigers are being pushed to the very periphery of their pristine forest habitat and into areas of human habitation, with this there is an increase in incidence of human-tiger conflict. Only a few weeks ago, our patrollers were alerted to such a situation whilst checking around the periphery of a village for snares and traps, they learnt that a tiger had killed a cow and entered a villager’s house. Clearly, this was a very dangerous situation for both the villagers and the tiger. Our patrollers went to investigate the situation further and came face to face with the guilty tiger as she lay in the grass a few metres from the house digesting her meal. In such situations, there is always an increased risk of a retaliatory response against the tiger by the aggrieved villagers. Our patrollers needed to act quickly to diffuse the tension and ensure that the tigress could return to the forest safely. Thankfully, the situation was resolved without harm to the young tigress, our patrollers or any of the villagers, but it is a reminder to us that our patrollers constantly risk their lives to keep wild tigers safe. We are grateful for the sterling efforts and bravery of the men and women who make up the Tigers4Ever Anti-poaching Patrols.

Now we must prepare for the onset of the monsoon season, which is also peak poaching season so we would like to double our patrols to address the increased threat to the wild tigers. At present, we cannot do this, as fundraising is behind target, but if we can raise £2500 over the next 6 – 8 weeks, we will hopefully be in a position to increase our patrols when the tigers need the most protection. If you are able to help in any way, please donate at: https://goto.gg/34704, if you can help on a regularly monthly basis GlobalGiving are currently offering 100% matched funding on new monthly donations at month 4, so if you sign up to donate £10 or $10 monthly by month four your donation will be worth £50 or $50 instead of £40 or $40. Please consider adding Gift Aid to your donation if you are a UK taxpayer, every little really does make a big difference in saving wild tigers, thank you.

We know that this is an expensive time for everyone and appreciate that you may not have much to spare right now, but if we can get 125 of our supporters to donate just £20 (US$26) each over the next few weeks, we will be able to double our patrols protecting wild tigers during the peak poaching season. If you can help us to give these precious wild tigers a safer wild future, even the smallest donation can make a huge difference. All donations, however large or small, will help to keep wild tigers from perishing at the hands of humans.

I would like to thank you 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, Vidya, Prahlad and our Anti-Poaching patrolling team.

Links:

 
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