Protecting Tigers

by David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Protecting Tigers
Protecting Tigers
Protecting Tigers
Protecting Tigers
Protecting Tigers
Protecting Tigers
Protecting Tigers
Protecting Tigers
Protecting Tigers
Protecting Tigers
Protecting Tigers
Protecting Tigers

Raising funds for the protection of wild tigers is tough. These magnificent cats - cited as among the world's favourite animals and surely one of nature’s most exquisite creations - are suffering from a catastrophic ambivalence as the world takes it eye off the crisis that they face. Numbers have crashed from 100,000 in 1900 to a highly vulnerable c.3,500 - 3,900 today. Human expansion continues to destroy their forest homes and deplete their prey, driving them into ever decreasing territories where conflict with other tigers and humans leads to more losses. Add to this the continuing illegal trade in tiger parts for home decor, amulets, trinkets and ineffective medicines and any hope for the future survival of the wild tiger seems misplaced.

But, giving in to the spiralling negativity of those who say extinction is a natural consequence of evolution is not an option. They cannot possibly understand what is at stake.

Tigers are forest dwellers; ambush predators that rely on cover to stalk their prey. Without forests there can be no tigers. And, where you find trees and rivers and herds of grazers you find a healthy eco-system managed - like the sun amid the stars - by the presence of tigers. They regulate the herbivores ensuring that overgrazing doesn't occur - that over large herds of deer don't break down the river banks and ravage the forests. Remove the tiger and the forests will suffer. Remove the forests and we all suffer.

Some of us have been lucky enough to experience a forest full of hidden tigers, felt true primal fear and the electricity that crackles through our bloodstream as the alarm calls of other animals signal the coming of a tiger. Some may have witnessed the emergence of the amber eyed cat with its liquid grace and its extraordinary, elegant strength. To see a tiger in the wild is a privilege - it fills you with awe and reverence. And, for all these reasons and a thousand more we must come together to save the tiger.

With no notable Royal to champion its cause the tiger struggles to attract the media attention enjoyed by the elephant and rhino. Securing support and raising awareness has never been more critical.

The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and its TigerTime Campaign are based on the principle that it is only through the collective actions of like-minded individuals that change can be brought about. As Mahatma Gandhi said 'be the change you want to see in the world'.

As the monsoon season closes India’s national parks to tourists we should remember that the tigers are still there and that the poachers are not far behind.

It is thanks to your amazing support that we can fund the park rangers throughout the year. Their work to protect precious tiger populations continues whatever the weather and so must ours.

If you have donated to support our work in Kaziranga there is still something more that you can do to help protect wild tigers; spread the word. Tell your friends and families, your work colleagues and your business partners that unless we come together to raise awareness for this astonishing cat they will be gone … and with them, the living, breathing forests that keep us all alive. Please share this GlobalGiving update and the project it supports - it is only by our collective actions that we will be able to save the tiger.

Thank you.

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On the banks of the Brahmaputra River
On the banks of the Brahmaputra River

Tigers, like most wild animals, have no concept of boundaries. For thousands of years they have moved across the planet’s landscapes seeking food, shelter and new territories. For many, their migratory routes are dictated by the seasons and this is true of the tigers in Kaziranga National Park. During the dry season they grow fat on the alluvial flood plains where prey is plenty and when the floods come they, with many other species, move to the safety of higher ground.

Tigers are excellent swimmers and for the tigers of Kaziranga it’s an important skill. The park’s northern boundary is formed by the Brahmaputra River; the tenth largest river on earth it flows from the Himalaya’s through China, India and Bangladesh out into the Bay of Bengal. It is a river that connects a series of important and precious tiger populations. Studies of the tiger’s migratory routes continue and there is evidence that the mighty Brahmaputra holds little fear for the tigers that cross it using the many river islands as stepping stones in their passage to the northern bank.

This movement of tigers is vital for big cat survival; as they reach the age of two the cubs disperse in search of territories and mates of their own ensuring that their DNA stays robust by breeding away from close family. Protecting these migratory routes and wildlife corridors is as important as protecting the parks themselves.

On the far side of the Brahmaputra, 114km northwest of Kaziranga by car lies Orang National Park which became India’s 49th Tiger Reserve in 2016. And there’s good news from Orang as recent studies look likely to herald the park as having the highest density of tigers in India, surpassing the record once held by its larger neighbour, Kaziranga.

That tiger populations in this area continue to thrive is thanks in part to your support which helps fund our work across this region’s important tiger landscape that embraces Kaziranga, Orang and Manas National Park a further 200km upstream.  With growing pressure from human activities, maintaining the migratory routes is vital and forms a key part in the education and conservation programmes that we fund.  And, during the seasonal floods, it is your support that helps provide extra staff and volunteers to work around the clock to ensure the safe passage of wildlife, including tigers, from the parks to higher ground. With many animals having to cross busy roads, maintaining road blocks and speed reduction programmes while also keeping a vigil for poachers who take advantage of the animals’ use of traditional paths, is key.

In a world with so many man-made boundaries we’d like to thank you again for helping us maintain the connectivity that is so vital to tiger survival.

The precious biodiversity that we work to protect
The precious biodiversity that we work to protect

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Babli at work in the field
Babli at work in the field

Earlier this year we reported on the great news that your support had enabled us to fund a third dog for the anti-poaching dog unit in Assam. In fact, your support was so amazing that we were also able to fund a new vehicle for the team, hugely increasing their capacity and reach across key national parks and tiger bearing areas in Assam.

At a time when data from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in India reports that there have been 98 known tiger deaths in the country this year - a 25% increase on 2015 - protecting these highly vulnerable populations has never been more important. The good news is that known losses in Assam still remain low and, with your help and the expanded dog unit, we intend that it stays that way! 

The hugely important K9 unit works on many levels to protect wildlife; the dogs ability to sniff out criminals helps unearth evidence and secure convictions; the presence of the dogs deters would-be poachers and the unit is a visual reminder of the zero-tolerance policy towards poachers.

Finding a suitable dog is, however, not the easiest of tasks especially with a project located in as remote an area as Kaziranga. With Jorba and Babli fully trained and making great strides in the field - Jorba has helped investigate six cases recently securing key convictions in all and Babli has been deployed to Manas National Park to assist the forest teams there - the third dog will provide a much needed boost to capacity. 

Currently undergoing training at a para-military facility in southern India it is hoped that the new dog has the same temprement and enthusiasm as Jorba and Babli. We'll bring you updates as soon as we can!

Once again, a HUGE thank you from all of us to you, our invaluable supporters. These dogs are successfully challenging poachers and protecting wildlife and precious wild tigers thanks of your generous and continued support. We hope that the wild tigers we work to protect can continue to count on you into 2017. Thank you.

Babli in the new vehicle
Babli in the new vehicle
On the trail of poachers
On the trail of poachers
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Goats as part of the Karbi Tribe programme
Goats as part of the Karbi Tribe programme

Tigers have always been part of the fabric of Indian society. Revered as gods for their life-giving presence - a presence that protects vital forests, water courses and, in turn, a myriad of other species - tigers have always held a special place among those who live close to them.

But, increasing pressure on tiger habitats and the illegal trade in tiger parts is pushing tigers towards extinction and those who once protected and reverred them are sometimes tempted by the short-term rewards that poaching can bring.

Key to our tiger protection work in Assam is engaging the local community, including ex-poachers and providing alternative streams of income to try and dissuade communities from hunting. 

One of these schemes is the goat scheme. This really simple programme works by donating two goats - a male and a female - to a family. When the goats breed two kids must be returned to the scheme to be given to another family. The remaining goats can be kept for breeding, milk or to sell thus providing the family with an on-going, sustainable income.

The scheme started in 2015 with 40 goats and focused on the Karbi Hill Tribe. With a stong hunting tradition the aim was to move the tribe away from their regular hunting - which was depleting key prey sources for tigers - and to give them an alternative and sustainable living. 

As well as providing the goats your support helps cover vaccinations and four monthly visits to check on the health of the animals. As the scheme grows it will embrace over 300 families and greatly reduce the loss of prey species available for the precious tigers populations in the area.

This same tribe has also been provided with a loom and training so that the women can weave traditional cloth that can be sold in the local markets. 

Together we are providing the tools that are literally weaving tigers back into the heart of society. So, a huge thank you from the team for helping us make these simple schemes so effective in protecting one of the world's most iconic animals.

Weaving tigers back into the community
Weaving tigers back into the community
Community projects are protecting wild tigers
Community projects are protecting wild tigers

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Reaching children around Assam's national parks
Reaching children around Assam's national parks

Protecting tigers in the wild is about much more than regular anti-poaching patrols. It's about changing hearts and minds, helping every stakeholder appreciate the value, not just of wild tigers but of wild spaces, for them, their communities and for the future. For over twenty years the team at DSWF have been working with Assamese conservationists to find the right balance between park protection, community outreach, undercover intelligence and education in the battle to save the tiger.

Since 2007 the Nature Orientation Programme has been engaging children from the fringe villages around Assam's national parks. Students are selected from families living below the poverty line, those who have been involved in human-wildlife conflicts and those from areas most effected by poaching or close to ecologically important sites.

The aims are to create awareness about the importance of wildlife conservation, to nurture a group of enthusiastic young conservationists who return to their families and friends to spread a positive message of conservation and who help others develop skills for taking up conservation efforts in the future.

In 2015, 80 students joined the programme.The three day course, run by ten staff and volunteers, revolves around field work (to gain an appreciation of wild places and wildlife) and learning through drama and conservation workshops. One of the students, a boy from a family whose cattle had been attacked by tigers, was reluctant to join the programme but at the end of the three days was even more reluctant to leave! He returned to his family with a positive attitude and some simple ideas about how to prevent wildlife conflict in the future. One of the simplest was to ensure that domestic dogs were kept on leashes during times of flooding in the park so that they would not chase and kill deer (important tiger food) fleeing from the rising water levels.

The alumni of the 2015 programme (and those from other years) still meet to discuss ways to spread awareness about the importance of wildlife conservation and many have gone on to study conservation at university. Along with the children from over 70 schools who are visited by the Rhino and Tiger Goes to School programme, these young people are the conservationists of the future taking on the baton of responsibility to protect what is too precious to lose. 

Thanks to your generous support we can continue to reach out to young people and help to change the hearts and minds that will ultimately protect what we all hold dear. And, when you consider that just £50 ($66) can help us reach 300 children, we think you'll agree that it is money very well spent.

Younger children enjoy meeting the wild animals
Younger children enjoy meeting the wild animals
Changing hearts and minds
Changing hearts and minds

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Organization Information

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Location: Guildford, Surrey - United Kingdom
Website:
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Twitter: @DSWFwildlife
Project Leader:
Theo Bromfield
Guildford, Surrey United Kingdom
$67,505 raised of $70,000 goal
 
1,594 donations
$2,495 to go
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