Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger

by Wildlife Trust of India
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Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Post mortem procedure of Electrocuted Tiger
Post mortem procedure of Electrocuted Tiger

Tigers trapped in Live Wires

The charismatic national animal of India has been under the radar for decades now. Project Tiger initiated by the Government of India was one of the pioneering initiatives launched in 1973. The gradual yet successful progress from 9 Tiger Reserves (TR) to 50 today, shows the importance of the species. Yet we are still battling over threats like demand for tiger parts and its derivatives sold at exorbitant rates nationally and internationally. The movement of tigers outside protected areas as per their innate behaviour brings them closer to human contact adding to threats like human-tiger conflict, which are reported from all across the country.

Poisoning, shooting, snares, and explosive-traps were earlier some of the popular poaching methods in Indian forests but today using ‘live’ electrical wire traps are the best silent solution that easily kill animals in an instant. Electrocution, a method in which a wired trap or fence of a high tension electric line passing near forests is used to kill animals, is a heinous trend today. This is either adopted by tiger poachers or by farmers to protect their fields from herbivores. Especially in villages close to tiger reserves, the heavy losses incurred due to crop raiding instigate farmers to lay live wires with a minimum of 440V and trap deer, wild boars etc. but, this often ends up accidentally trapping another mega fauna like Tigers, leopards, elephants etc.

The recent death of a tiger in the backwaters of Kabini in Belthru village, Karnataka has raised a huge cry. The carcass was found floating with skin and canines intact but claws removed and tied in a plastic bag hanging to its foreleg. The post-mortem conducted by the forest department revealed the tiger was electrocuted as the heart had reduced to ashes and carcass was dumped in the river to evade prosecution. Not just tigers but several animals from the forests face the same plight today. Many cases such as this go hidden due to lack of evidence and adequate vigilance. In Meghamalai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu the number of electrocution cases have been proliferating.

Meghamalai TR situated in the Western Ghats in Theni district, Tamil Nadu works as an excellent connectivity between Periyar TR and Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary. As per forest department records these moist tropical forests in the last ten years have witnessed around 90 sambar deer,200 wild pig, 4 elephants and an Indian Gaur. Several such cases in many Indian Tiger reserves go unnoticed and not long before a leopard or tiger gets un-trapped. Only active surveillance conducted within regular intervals can stop the rising incidents of electrocution in our country.

Thanks to your generous contribution in Global giving, Wildlife Trust of India successfully. The need for training forest guards and providing them the right equipment to help detect these fatal traps and also ensure personal safety is currently being taken as a priority. We kindly request for your philanthropic support to help us protect tigers.

 

Activities from Tiger Projects of WTI that are funded by other Donors

The shrinking habitats of wild animals due to escalating human population result in unsolicited and inevitable encounters between humans and wild animals in and around forests, leading to human wildlife conflict. WTI’s Rapid Response Team (RRT) was established to provide an expert emergency response to such conflict situations and address human big-cat conflict proximally. Comprising of three skillsets – a trained wildlife biologist, a sociologist and a wildlife veterinarian, the RRT is equipped with requisite equipment and a vehicle to efficiently address big cat conflict situations. At a conflict situation, each component of RRT brings together their expertise and strives to mitigate conflict without bringing the lives of people and the animal involved in danger. This includes intensive monitoring and identification of the animal by the biologist, awareness and crowd control by the sociologist, and if required, chemical capture and relocation of the animal involved with the help of the trained veterinarian.

Currently, the RRT is operational at two places – the Dudhwa Pilibhit landscape in Uttar Pradesh and the Vidarbha landscape in Maharashtra. Since its establishment, the RRT has attended to several human tiger conflict cases and directly intervened in 9 tiger conflict cases in Vidarbha landscape and 13 tiger cases in Dudhwa-Pilibhit. This involves intensive and regular monitoring of the tiger to avert any possible conflict in villages; providing safe passage; and direct capture and relocation of the tiger. Apart from direct interventions, the RRT plays an important role in other aspects that indirectly contribute to human tiger conflict mitigation and ultimately tiger conservation. These include awareness and sensitization of local communities, training of Frontline Forest Staff (FFS), treatment of other wild animals in distress, and conducting livestock immunizations camps.

This holistic approach aims at addressing human-big cat conflicts in the landscape using a proactive and multipronged strategy that could prove favourable to the wild animals and humans involved in conflict situations.

Tigress from Kanha National Park
Tigress from Kanha National Park

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Tiger citing at Kanha Tiger Reserve (MP)
Tiger citing at Kanha Tiger Reserve (MP)

India’s national animal, Royal Bengal Tiger survives today braving all threats alarming their existence. Global wild tiger populations have suffered a severe decline over the years making them one of the most endangered big cats in the world. We, today stand at a critical crossroad fighting between the need for development and to also save this apex predator from extinction resulting due to habitat loss and poaching.

The Central India Landscape is well known for its network of Tiger reserves interspersed with forest patches and corridors. With a good number of National parks (9), Tiger Reserves (6) and Wildlife Sanctuaries (25) Madhya Pradesh (MP), Central India’s “Tiger state” was unfortunately recorded with the highest tiger deaths in 2017. Since 2013, 15 Tigers died because of Electrocution in MP.

Electrocution has raised concerns in the wildlife community. Often villagers from forest fringes lay down high voltage wires to deter wild boars and deer from their farmlands and sometimes also hunt them. Dozens of elephants, tigers, sloth bears, birds etc fall prey to such poorly maintained power lines around human settlements. While there are strict guidelines to keep animals safe and from straying out of their shrinking habitats, they are not strictly implemented in our country.

The grave danger wildlife in our country is constantly exposed to, there is always a need for strong enforcement initiatives and litigation to mitigate recurring tiger deaths in the country. Both wildlife and forest-related offenses are fundamentally distinct from other crimes and require a specialized skill set to put away convicts. The lack of training in filing cases and adequate documentation of legal procedures contribute to the alarmingly low conviction rate in wildlife crime cases. So to address this issue at the very root Wildlife Trust of India through its litigation project under Wildlife Crime Control division has been providing routine counseling and training to state forest departments to address wildlife offenses across several Protected Areas since 2013. As part of this programme, WTI’s regional legal consultant Mr. Yash Kumar Soni provided legal assistance to a tiger death case in Kanha Tiger Reserve reported in the jurisdiction of Mohgaon, a village located in the vicinity of the Protected Area.

Information was received from some villagers about a death of the tiger in their village. On further investigation, the body of a tiger was found buried in a remote area near the local village with its paws cut off. The forest department after post-mortem and inspection, it came to fore that the tiger was accidentally killed due to electrocution and the culprits buried the same fearing legal consequences. To add further, the miscreants had cut the paws off and portions of the Tiger’s skin to sell in the black market. With the aid of the local community, the forest department took into custody four convicts and the case is currently under judicial consideration in the District Court. WTI’s legal consultant assisted the forest department in legal documentation of this case.

WTI’s Wildlife Crime Control Division has been actively working to prevent deaths through electrocution in Karnataka, South India. These efforts have resulted in Chief Wildlife Warden of the State making inclusion of Anti-electrocution walks mandatory in Forest staff’s routine patrolling.

To help tackle the increase in accidental electrocution deaths WTI is currently developing an anti-electrocution kit which will help detect live wires and take appropriate measures before any casualty. Talks are underway with forest departments to equip and train their frontline staff to also conduct anti-electrocution walks and map power lines in and around Protected Areas. Each kit will possess a live-wire detector, pliers to cut wires and precautionary wear for the frontline staff. The cost of each kit is around 300 USD and every department will be provided 4-5 kits for selected individuals from the forest department. The selected staff will also be provided with training. Total cost for training and equipment comes to approximately 1700 USD.

We would like to request our donors to support this cause and help us raise funds to help address this rising issue of electrocution deaths, both accidental and deliberate cases and protect tigers and other wildlife in our country.

Tiger Close-up at Kanha Tiger Reserve(MP)
Tiger Close-up at Kanha Tiger Reserve(MP)
Tiger electrocuted to death in Central India
Tiger electrocuted to death in Central India
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Filling Watehole
Filling Watehole

Today with forests shrinking, corridors play a critical role in balancing ecological processes and animal movement. By providing landscape connections between larger areas of habitat, corridors enable migration, colonisation and interbreeding of plants and animals. Royal Bengal Tigers being highly territorial, dominant individuals often chase away other males from their territory so here corridors play a significant role in connecting two landscapes and keeping their population viable.

Muniya conservation reserve located in Umred-Bhivapur region in Nagpur district, Maharashtra is one such wildlife corridor connecting Bor Tiger reserve in Umred-Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary and Tadoba- Andheri Tiger Reserve. Tadoba-Andheri Tiger landscape holds a booming tiger population with over 40 tiger individuals in the protected areas of the landscape and is one of the most sought after parks for tiger tourism. Tigers often move out of the PA into Muniya conservation reserve which is spread across 1700 hectares of protected forest and 710 hectares of reserve forest. This corridor harbors leopards, blackbucks, and several bird species including the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard.

With summer season approaching in India, surface water repositories in protected areas and wildlife corridors are essential to quench the thirst of all biota. Thirst can be one of the major causes for wildlife mortality, either directly or indirectly by driving animals stray out of their natural habitat and bring into conflict with humans. While seasonal depletion of water bodies is a natural phenomenon in certain landscapes, in the recent years this has been accentuated by climate change and anthropogenic pressure on habitats.

Temperatures soaring as high as 40 degrees Celsius during summers, surface water are premium in the corridor area. Muniya conservation reserve holds four major waterholes that completely go dry leaving the landscape arid for tigers and prey. To address this issue immediately, with the able support of GlobalGiving, WTI helped replenish these waterholes and help wildlife. Every week for a period of three months, eight to ten water tankers (capacity of 4000 litres each) supplied a total 200,000 litres of water was refilled into the strategic waterholes. Dr.Vijay Ghugey, President of NISARG VIDNYAN from Nagpur( the project proponent) said,” Our organisation would like to thank WTI for the generous support to help us continue our efforts of maintaining waterholes in the landscape. We hope we have your helping hand in the coming years for more such conservation activity requirements”.

Camera traps were also installed around the waterholes to witness the species visiting the waterholes. Apart from the great diversity of wildlife species ranging from birds, civet, mongoose, Indian Wolf and Spotted deer, we were thrilled to also observe indirect evidences such as pug marks of Royal Bengal Tigers and leopards.

Team deploying camera traps
Team deploying camera traps
Bird Diversity
Bird Diversity
Troop of Langur quenching their thirst
Troop of Langur quenching their thirst
A Bluebull exploring the waterhole
A Bluebull exploring the waterhole
Group of Wildpigs
Group of Wildpigs
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Tiger Pug Marks  during monitoring
Tiger Pug Marks during monitoring

In India, though Tiger (Panthera tigris) is given the status of a National animal, wherever they come into contact with landscapes dominated by humans, they often pose a threat by preying on livestock and less commonly on people. In such situations, local antagonism against tigers often erupts into a serious problem. The incidence of human–tiger conflicts (HTCs) is therefore very alarming in India.  The years 2014-2017, there have been 345 tigers killed and 92 human causalities.  With increasing tiger population and decreasing habitat, it is believed the numbers are to rise with time.

With the gracious support of GlobalGiving, WTI helped in conflict management in a high conflict region in and around Yavatmal district. Situated in the far southernmost corner of the Central Indian landscape in Vidarbha region, Maharashtra,Yavatmal is also known as the “Cotton city” of India and is dominated by the farming community. Though the forest in this region is isolated from major protected area network in the state; it does boast to be an important wildlife habitat for tigers and their prey base. As per official records, it is slated to have regular movement of 5-10 tigers in and around this area.

The rise in tigers entering the area from adjoining protected areas, has led to a situation of conflict.  A total of 1144 human deaths were recorded due to conflict with tigers in India (till May 2017). In Yavatmal, in a span of two years, there have been many human injuries and twelve human deaths. Apart from human deaths, depredation of livestock is also widespread. Domestic animals being easy prey the number of conflict cases has risen multi-fold in this region. Traumatised local communities often in such situation were witnessed to lose their tolerance and seek to kill the animal, out of revenge.

WTI team looking at this situation planned on intervening before the situation got worse. With the support of the state forest department and local conservationists the team initiated the exercise to track the movement and territory pattern of the   problem tiger. The team assisted the FD in setting up camera trap to identify the individual, which was found to be a tigress. Based on the tracking history, it future movement were predicted and cautions were sounded of in villages. Other vital information on how to handle conflict situation were also disseminated to ensure the safety of locals as well as the tiger.  

Additionally, the field team has been coordinating with the forest department and target conflict villages to undertake regular awareness programmes. Traditionally, approaches for reducing conflict between people and wild cats have focussed on limiting interactions between people and wild cats, or mitigating the impacts of the wild cat behaviour on conflict communities. Being an agriculture-dominated landscape, local communities were given information to alter their perceptions of the risks posed by tigers, advice people on how to avoid/reduce probability of negative encounters with tigers.

This cross collaboration with communities and forest department is helping in establishing long term-holistic conflict management strategies. Since the initiation the conflict intensity has seen a marked decline. Until the time the tigress is moving in a human dominated landscape and away from the PA (Protected Areas), such measures will continue in a bid to keep the tiger and humans from harm’s way.

At Wildlife Trust of India our mission is “To conserve wildlife and its habitat and to work for the welfare of individual wild animals, in partnership with communities and governments.” Which is being practised in all the projects like this one.

WTI is thankful to all the supporters on GlobalGiving platform for their continuous support which encourages us and motivates us to follow our mission and saving individual wild animal.

Awareness meeting
Awareness meeting
Photograph of a tiger from landscape
Photograph of a tiger from landscape
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Tiger in Bandipur Tiger Reserve
Tiger in Bandipur Tiger Reserve

India holds over half of the world’s tiger population and is considered to have the best chance for saving the wild population of this magnificent animal. Being the apex of the food chain and an umbrella species, presence of tiger is vital in regulating ecological processes and systems in a habitat. Bandipur, in the southern state of Karnataka is one of the earliest Tiger reserves in the country and holds the distinction of housing the second largest population of tigers (estimated 136) in the world. However, it doesn’t take away from the fact that tigers are under severe threat from poaching, human wildlife conflict, forest fires, expansion of linear infrastructure to name a few.

Through your support, WTI has been working in Bandipur TR to address poaching and resolving various aspects of human-wildlife conflict. In the past few months, the team (in two separate incidents) assisted the forest department in capturing and providing veterinary treatment to two injured tigers. The veterinary officer also provided treatment to four cases of livestock that had been attacked and injured by tigers in Maddur, Hediyala, N.Begur and Kundkere forest ranges. All the treated cattle have recovered from their injuries and are back in good health. A consultative meeting was also organized with the local panchayat members to ensure that no retaliatory poisoning would be done by the locals, in return for timely ex-gratia by the forest department. The team also accompanied the Animal Husbandry Department (AHD) and conducted Foot & Mouth Disease vaccination programs in fringe villages of Bandipur TR to limit its breakout.

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Wildlife Trust of India

Location: Noida, Uttar Pradesh - India
Website:
Project Leader:
Monica Verma
Noida, Uttar Pradesh India
$87,119 raised of $90,000 goal
 
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