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
Seized Tiger skin
Seized Tiger skin

By virtue of being the top predator, Tiger functions as an umbrella species for the conservation of biodiversity, ecosystem functions, goods, and services in forest. Poaching, driven largely by the international demand for tiger parts over the years has emerged as a major threat alongside prey depletion and habitat loss. India, being home to more the half of the world’s tigers is thus facing a challenging task in protecting the species from increasing incidences of poaching and trafficking. Despite focused efforts and legal protection by forest department under Wildlife Protection (1972) Act, poaching of tigers continue unabated. Being a conservation dependent species, efforts are needed from all quarters. With your valuable contribution and support a number of enforcement initiatives have been taken by WTI in support of the state forest departments to address the rising illegal tiger trade in India.

Recently, in a collaborative enforcement initiative by WTI field team and Karnataka FD a tiger skin was seized in Mysore, Karnataka. Two accused were also apprehended, one who through an intensive interrogation process revealed himself to be a poacher. Critical information such as the site of tiger capture and the modus operandi was revealed by him. Based on the provided intelligence, the enforcement team visited the crime site. The team found strong evidence of camp fire and other poaching gear indicating presence of an established gang in the region. Efforts are currently on to locate the gang and bring an end to the trade.

It is hoped that with your continuous support, we will earn more opportunities for monitoring and address tiger crime in India. 

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Awareness Gathering
Awareness Gathering

Sundarbans is classified as Tiger Conservation Landscape of Global Priority. It holds one of the world’s largest remaining Bengal tiger population in a coastal mangrove habitat.  The human–tiger conflict in Sundarbans mangroves is more frequent than in any other area of the world. However, their habitat has been greatly depleted due to over alarming rise in human population and conversion of forests into farms and human settlements. Hunting and forest degradation of the remaining habitat patches has led to the intrusion of the tigers into human settlements.

There are about 8 sub districts whose villagers live adjacent to the forest boundary and are dependent on natural resources within Sundarbans for a number of income generating activities.  The estimates of human kills range from 50-250 people per year mostly honey collectors, fisherman, crab collectors and even forest frontline staff. These villagers also experiences high levels of livestock depredation and face the conflict with the tigers. In 2015, a woman was killed in Gudalur by a tiger which created a state of violence in the location. The angry villagers were on boil and attacked the forest officials and torched their jeeps.

According to Forest Department, at least 3 tiger per year are killed as a result of conflict in Sundarbans. Such high rate of rising conflict will one day result in extinction of the species. To address the conflict situation, Wildlife Trust of India with your support initiated a Rapid Action Project aimed at curbing the immediate threats in these conflict prone villages.  Ten primary response teams (PRTs) are constantly working with forest department for mitigating conflicts in the villages falling under Gurguria Bhubaneswari Gram Panchayat. The rapid action of volunteers in locating the stray tigers is actually contributing the Forest department to capture the tiger and release it in the safe location. Apart from this, the teams are also controlling the crowd and sensitizing them on not to panic during the conflict situation. Along with Forest Department, the team has managed to engage with other concerned stakeholders like village heads, fisherman and farmers clubs, fisherman groups, block developmental offices.

A workshop cum awareness meeting was arranged at Nibedita Mahila Samity (local samity), Purba Gurguria village in presence of 45 community leaders from different farmers clubs, SHGs, and youth clubs. In this workshop, several discussions on importance of Sundarban tigers, cause of conflict, mitigation of the conflicts were discussed with different key stakeholders. Major decisions like distribution of contact numbers of local forest department to among volunteers, village heads, use of shanks, blow horn to raise alarms in tiger presence in vicinity of the area were taken during this workshop. Sixteen such local level awareness meetings have been conducted in conflict prone villages. The members of youth club have volunteered for mitigation of conflicts in the area who have been trained on how to deal with tigers that stray, to decrease the delay in response time when tiger stray into villages. Thesevolunteers are helping the PRTs by informing the forest department about tiger movement in the area. A mock drill was also arranged to sensitize the villagers about the conflict with tigers. Such role-plays help to gauge levels of preparedness for actual conflict situations, and aid in the development of standard operating protocols for village communities and especially the Primary Response Teams (comprised of representatives from conflict-prone villages) that are supposed to monitor and manage such situations to save both human and animal lives. Broad guidelines were also passed on to the villagers to help prevent conflict situations.  

Folk media campaigns have proven to be extremely effective across a number of projects at striking an emotional chord and conveying complex ideas simply and succinctly. A folk media campaign of ‘Bon Bibi’ was arranged by the PRTs which attracted over one thousand people. ‘Bon Bibi’ is the lady of forest and is considered as the god of tiger by people of Sundarbans. People believe that Bon Bibi is protecting the villagers from tiger attacks. Two such programs were arranged with folk songs. This medium was used as a platform to pass on the information among villagers about tigers, their importance and conservation. Posters having the guidelines about the human tiger conflict mitigation were also distributed to block developmental offices (BDO), panchyats, schools, scientists and youth clubs of Sundarban Area. Meetings were arranged with BDOs to provide the information about our work and requested them to inform the villagers about governmental welfare schemes to reduce the the forest dependency. 

2) Folk Media Campaign
2) Folk Media Campaign
3) Distribution of poster to the BDOs
3) Distribution of poster to the BDOs
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Field Team locating strayed Tiger
Field Team locating strayed Tiger

Large carnivores are facing a massive decline in their population, which is a global conservation concern. Among large carnivores, tigers especially are continually threatened by number of threats. India, which holds the 70% of the world's tiger population face a challenging task in protecting the species. The tiger population here is confined to small and isolated forests where stochastic events and continuing human impacts had an adverse impact leading it to extinction.

WTI has been a pioneer in addressing the conservation threats to tiger population in India. A number of enforcement initiatives have been taken up by the team in support of the state forest departments to address the rising demand for tiger skin and bones. WTI was the first organization to identify snares as a serious threat to the survival of wildlife, especially tigers, in the Protected Areas of India. Snares made up of loop (noose) of cordage are placed by hunters and poachers, camouflaged with vegetation across an animal trail or other place where an animal is likely to walk through. The big carnivores get trapped in these wires and get entangled.  They are usually placed by local hunters & poachers to illegally collect body parts of big cats and farmers to avoid conflicts with them. In Bandipur TR, WTI in collaboration with Karnataka FD officials conducted many anti snare walks in and around the PA, where the team unearthed more than 1000 deadly snares from an area of over 2200 sq km. Recently, based on local intelligence the team recovered around 56 snares from Kenchanakere, Hunsur district  and Chamundi hills, Karnataka.

In the state of West Bengal, Sundarban TR is a world heritage site. Tigers here notoriously termed as “Maneater” often come in conflict with humans. Apart from livestock depredation, tigers often attack human inside forests when engaged in activities like fishing, fuelwood collection. However, there has been a recent trend of tigers coming inside village and killing humans especially in the winter months. Through your support WTI have conducted sensitization programs in few high conflict villages engaging all stakeholders. We also formulated rapid response teams by involving the youth of the villages whose primary responsibility will be to assist the FD officials in driving the tiger away from human habitation and keeping the crowd in control, to prevent any retaliation. This response team was recently equipped with high powered lights and blow horns to sound an alert in case a tiger is sighted in the village. The field team have also planned to use barriers (through nylon nets) around the village vicinity. In one instance the rapid response team provided local intel to the FD staff in capturing a strayed tiger. Based on the local intel from this team, the FD staff set the trap leading to its successful capture. The FD is planning to release the tiger back into the wild.

Equipping the Team
Equipping the Team
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Awareness among villagers
Awareness among villagers

Sundarban holds a huge population of endangered and highly threatened species including the only population of tigers in a coastal mangrove habitat. As per the last census conducted in 2014, this landscape holds approx 76 individuals of Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris). Historically, known for their man-eating behaviour, the conflict with humans is always at its peak. The estimates of human kills range from 50 to 250 people per year, mostly honey collectors, fishermen, crab collectors, & even Forest frontline staff.  Although awareness initiatives have succeeded in sensitizing and reducing the entry into the forest which has led to the reduction of conflicts in the villages, however remote villages are still facing the issue Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) initiated a rapid project aimed at curbing the immediate threats in these conflict prone villages.

In the recent few years, villages under the Gurguria Bhubaneswari Gram Panchayat have witnessed a rise in tiger encounters inside villages, especially in winter months. There has also been a considerable rise in human mauling, mortality and livestock depredation cases in these villages. To address this, the project undertook sensitization programs to aware villagers about do’s and don’ts during conflict scenario. The project team engaged with concerned stakeholders like the village heads, fishermen and farmers clubs, fishermen groups, Block development officers, forest departments etc and sensitize the youth to form ten rapid response conflict mitigation groups in Purba Gurguria, Bhubaneshwari, Deulbari, Madhya Gurguria and Maipith  These teams currently are assisting the forest dept. in mitigating the human tiger conflict.  Recently, a tiger was reported from Kultali village which is adjacent to our targeted village. The local response teams helped forest forest department in tracking the stray tiger and located it at Kishorimohonpur. The team also helped in crowd management during the tiger capture and transport operation. The tiger was successfully captured by the Forest dept and will soon be released back to the wild.

Through this project, teams comprising of local youths and village heads (from the Panchayats) have been formed in the targeted villages. It is been suggested by the villagers that ‘Shanks’ (shell used in worship) will be blown during the conflict to raise alarms for tiger presence in and near vicinity of the area.  The response team were helpful in curbing the issue of conflict at ground level.

WTI was the first organization to identify snares as a serious threat to the survival of wildlife, especially tigers, in the Protected Areas of South India. The snares made of galvanized steel wires or improvised motor-vehicle-clutch wires, capable of entangling big herbivores and carnivores. Local hunters and poachers use snares, as they are the cheapest, simplest and most effective way of trapping animals. Snares are placed usually in strategic areas like the Park-boundaries and agricultural fringes. Once get caught, the big cats could face a slow and painful death. With your support, WTI have undertaken many anti snare walks in Bandipur TR covering an area of about 2285kms and removed 1161 snares till date in assistance with Forest Dept.  Forest departments from adjoining forest divisions after witnessing the success are requesting our team to replicate the anti snare initiatives in their respective areas as well. The walks as well as the increased monitoring by STPF and WTI team allows for encouragement of interaction between the Forest Department Staff, Anti Snare Walk (ASW) Team and locals. These interactions are hoped to bring about an increased awareness in local inhabitants and also assist the Forest Department in the assimilation of data and information related to human wildlife conflict as well as any illegal wildlife related activity.

Also, WTI has been actively involved in the wildlife trade control of tiger. A tiger skin and other wildlife products were recovered and four persons arrested during an operation by the Manas Tiger Protection authority in October. The training WTI imparted to forest staff in Manas- including procedures for search and seizure, interrogation techniques, and the preparation of evidentiary documents helped here.

Tiger on roof
Tiger on roof
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Photo 2
Photo 2

Similipal Tiger Reserve, September 23, 2016: Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), working in partnership with the Forests & Environment Department, Government of Odisha, has this morning commenced a three-day intensive training workshop on rescue and rehabilitation of displaced wildlife at Ramtirtha, Jashipur, near Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR).

 

This circle-level advanced training is a culmination of a series of workshops conducted since 2015 at various divisions of STR at the behest of the Regional Chief Conservator of Forests (RCCF) cum Field Director of STR, Mr Harish Kumar Bisht, IFS. The initial workshops were held at Baripada (core), as well as the Rairangpur, Karanjia and Balasore (wildlife) divisions with the objective of identifying and constituting circle-level teams of five Forest Department personnel in each division. These candidates having been identified, this advanced training will now focus on equipping, sensitising and further enhancing their ability to handle emergencies related to displaced wildlife.

 

The workshop was inaugurated by Mr Bisht (RCCF-cum-Field Director, STR), Dr JD Pati, IFS (Divisional Forest Officer, Rairangpur), Mr AK Biswal (Assistant Conservator of Forests, Baripada STR), Dr KK Mondal (Honorary Wildlife Warden), Major Das (a retired army officer) and representatives from WTI. “The vision of this training is to address wildlife emergencies promptly, effectively, safely and systematically”, Mr Bisht told the participants; “in times to come incidences of human-wildlife conflict are bound to rise, making such trainings invaluable.” Major Das compared the Forest Department’s frontline field staff with army soldiers, encouraging them to develop a similar outlook towards forest protection as a soldier has towards protecting the country.

The workshop will provide mainly hands-on training for the most part over the coming sessions, with some theoretical sessions on the foundations and protocols of wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, ethics and documentation. Today, Dr Khanin Changmai, Veterinary Surgeon with WTI’s Mobile Veterinary Service (MVS) unit at STR, provided a demonstration and training on using immobilisation equipment, which included shooting practice for the trainees. Other practical sessions will include technical rope rescue training on land and water bodies, mock drills on emergencies involving elephants, leopards, bears and tigers, and human-snake conflict mitigation.

Picture 1
Picture 1
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Organization Information

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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