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
Tiger Seminar Memento, Photo Credit: Dr Sudip
Tiger Seminar Memento, Photo Credit: Dr Sudip

Dear Supporter,

The national animal of India has admirers all throughout the globe. We have received considerable support for our Bengal Tiger project and we are extremely thankful to GlobalGiving for connecting us with passionate individuals like you. This month, our update focuses on how sensitization of the urban population, especially the youth can fuel long-term conservation efforts. We bring to you an activity from West Bengal, a state that harbours one of the most unique and conducive habitats for the mighty Bengal Tiger.

The cluster of islands at the convergence of the mighty river Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna form the “Sundarban Tiger Reserve”. They represent the world’s largest mangrove habitat and lie between West Bengal (India) and Bangladesh. These fragile tidal creeks hold an array of species, both rare and endangered. Noted ones like the Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris), Gangetic river dolphin (Platanista gangetica gangetica), estuarine crocodile (Crocodilus porosus), small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinereus), marsh mongoose (Herpestes palustris) and others are harboured in this UNESCO World Heritage site. Along with 103 tigers (2015 Tiger census record India) the mangroves are also home to 4.5 million people. As per records, between 2010 and 2017, there have been 52 human deaths due to tiger attacks in the landscape. The main occupation of the fringe communities is fishing, honey and timber collection, which often compel them to often venture out into the swamps, bringing them dangerously close to tigers. Apart from the antagonism faced by local communities due to the daily threats they face on field, it Is sadly the lurking stories of man-eaters and the danger around tigers that the urban population of any city immediately relates to. The lack of exposure to nature and wildlife often makes people turn a blind eye to our unique and biodiverse Natural Heritage.

Along with conservation initiatives carried out with communities directly affected by Tigers, it is important to engage the urban sector and sensitize them on the current conservation issues and the threats Tigers in India face. Sensitizing students always plays a vital role in voicing ideas to older generations and the future. While on one hand, most Asian cultures have historically admired the tiger for its energy, strength and courage, on the other hand, tales of trophy hunting and man-eaters still give jitters to people. To cumulate the varied emotions towards this majestic species, Wildlife Trust of India supported a seminar titled “TIGERS” organised by a reputed autonomous college “Ramakrishna Mission Vidyamandira”, affiliated to the University of Calcutta. The seminar was organised by the Department of English to create an interest on Tigers and its significance across all disciplines ranging from science, art to literature. There was active participation of over 100 students from various universities and colleges across West Bengal and other states. The students were given the opportunity to submit proposals related to their respective disciplines keeping “Tigers” as the theme of interest. From the excellent response received, the best thirty papers and six posters were selected. The selected students were asked to present their research findings to the assembled audience. Eminent guests such as Newspaper editors, authors and professors were invited for the seminar. Mr Shiv Sahay Singh, Assistant Editor of The Hindu as the Chief guest, eminent author Anjana Basu and well-known Graphic Designer, Dr Pinaki De were some of the speakers invited to talk to the students on their areas of expertise. As a token of appreciation to all students presenting papers and posters, the book titled “Tiger by the Tale” by Venita Coelho was awarded to each. This book also reads about the cases of missing tigers in the Sundarbans Landscape and the stories behind them. The seminar helped as a creative gathering of students and professors celebrating our National Animal.

We hope to conduct more such activities in urban sectors to interact with students on India’s Wildlife. Along with such sensitization workshops and seminars, Wildlife Trust of India has also initiated a long term project to engage with the Sundarban landscape community and understand the ground realities to help mitigate the Human-Tiger conflict in the region. As we move forward and address critical conservation threats, your support would be most sought after.

Best Wishes,

Team WTI

Tiger Seminar Participants Photo Credits: Dr Sudip
Tiger Seminar Participants Photo Credits: Dr Sudip
Tiger Seminar, Photo Credits: Dr Sudip
Tiger Seminar, Photo Credits: Dr Sudip
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Tiger killed by snare
Tiger killed by snare

2018 has been an increasingly tense period for Tigers all over the world. Beginning with China loosening their ban on the trade of tiger bones to shooting of T1 Tigress, Avni mother of two cubs in Maharashtra, to name a few have raised some serious concerns for the majestic species survival. According to National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) till December 2018 there were 95 tiger deaths in the country. Shockingly, 41 out of the 95 cases were reported outside Tiger Reserves.

Maharashtra, home to 190 tigers as per the 2014 Tiger census accounted for 14 tiger deaths in 2018 with more than 70% occurring outside Protected Areas. The states Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka closely followed with 22 and 15 tiger deaths respectively. Tigers are constantly running out of space and spilling out of Tiger reserves, (imaginary boundaries dictated by us) into villages and highways bringing them in conflict with humans. Apart from poaching and hunting, the constant fear of livestock depredation and being attacked by a meandering carnivore lead to retaliation among communities.

To tackle this issue, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) has been constantly working with fringe communities of Tiger Reserves and equipping frontline forest staff to help monitoring and safeguard tiger habitats. WTI works to prevent crime against wildlife in India by addressing issues like poaching and hunting. Since 2011, WTI has been regularly conducting anti-snare walks in Karnataka and recently in Chhattisgarh. These are joint operations with the forest departments to identify and remove snares. These walks are organised along park boundaries along with selected youth from the communities. Along with capacity building, WTI also conducts awareness workshops and regular meetings with village communities on conflict mitigation strategies near Tiger Reserves. We are currently carrying out awareness workshops near Maharashtra where due to the lack of awareness people approach tigers at very close quarters. To add on, the communication gap between the forest department and community makes it more challenging to crowd-control and monitor transient tigers of the landscape.

As we have stepped onto a New year, we hope to put an end to the atrocities on India's National Animal. In this journey of ours, your support will be most sought after. Global Giving has been our pillar of strength and we at WTI could not be thankful enough. With the onset of 2019, let us join hands and make the world a better place to live in.

Tiger in Bandipur, Southern India
Tiger in Bandipur, Southern India
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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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Organization Information

Wildlife Trust of India

Location: Noida, Uttar Pradesh - India
Website:
Project Leader:
Monica Verma
Noida, Uttar Pradesh India
$97,782 raised of $150,000 goal
 
1,752 donations
$52,218 to go
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