By Dr. Corinne Taylor-Smith | Project Leader
Tiger Cubs Sparring
Every day we are grateful for your tremendous support for our anti-poaching patrols, especially with so many other challenges facing us all these days. Your help and generosity not only helped us to increase to quadruple patrolling throughout the 2023 monsoon period, peak poaching season, it has helped us to achieve triple patrolling in the 5 months since. As a small charity, we rely heavily on individual donors like you to deliver the essential services which help us to keep wild tigers safe. As a result, your donations are essential to ensuring that we can provide the best protection we can for the growing wild tiger and cub population.
Conflict and Deaths are still on the Increase
As previously reported, the results of the 2022 Tiger Census were announced in July 2023, and confirmed that India has three-quarters of the world’s global wild tiger population - 3167 wild tigers (785 of which are in Madhya Pradesh). The wild tiger population in Bandhavgarh has quadrupled from 37 in 2010, when our efforts to give them a wild future commenced. A massive success story which we couldn’t have achieved without your help!
With these increases, the risk of poaching, tiger-tiger conflict and human-tiger conflict also increases, as wild tigers need more habitat and more protection. This is our new daily challenge and it has been keeping us very busy for the last year and possibly even last two years. The number of wild tigers dying across the whole of India has been at a new 15 year record level in 2023 (181 reported deaths – 150% of 2022 figure)! The death toll for 2024 already stands at 25 with 4 of the deaths due to tiger-tiger conflict in Bandhavgarh! It is taking everything we have to keep wild tigers safe now! As wild tiger numbers grow, there will always be an increase in the number of natural deaths because more wild tigers need more wild space, and fights for territory become more frequent. This is the lore of the jungle and is something which is hard to curb without forest expansion or forest improvement schemes. We continue to work behind the scenes on forest rehabilitation initiatives, but launching such a large project during a cost-of-living crisis brings with it a significant fundraising challenge too. We are currently researching funding options which will make it possible to start this long term habitat restoration and expansion project. Meanwhile, we are working to improve the existing wild tiger habitat to try to reduce both human-wildlife and tiger-tiger conflict through our waterholes project:https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/water-for-bandhavgarhs-tigers/and a new initiative to reduce human-wildlife conflict which has been trialled in the Sundarbans to reduce tigers entering the villages at night in search of prey. Enhancing protection for the wild tigers and their habitat ensures that more cubs are surviving, which means more protection is needed and importantly the number of wild tigers will exceed the carrying capacity of their current habitat. At this point we have reached a critical impasse in both human-wildlife and tiger-tiger conflict.
Thankfully, our patrolling has kept unnatural wild tiger deaths at bay in Bandhavgarh, but we cannot afford to let down our guard as poachers are always lurking and seeking opportunities to strike. Your kind donations and a grant we received from Tiger Awareness has enabled us to fund increased patrolling into April 2024. We’re hoping that our supporters who receive GlobalGiving gift cards will also choose to help our anti-poaching patrols to keep wild tigers safe throughout the upcoming drought season and beyond (https://goto.gg/28767).
Human deaths are on the increase too, since the start of 2024 two more people have been killed by wild tigers, in addition to the six killed in the latter part of 2023! Despite the rollout of our safety education programme, our patrollers are still encountering lone herders in the forest grazing their cattle and putting their lives at risk! When questioned, they say that they are aware of the safety advice but grazing their cattle is more important! Our patrollers tell them that people have recently been killed in the area by wild tigers and that if they too are killed who will support their families, some listen – others don’t! Every human death results in significant unrest in the villages and, with it the risk of retaliatory attacks on tigers by angry villagers increases a thousand-fold! At the end of 2023, 3 different tigers were implicated in human killings, and 2 young male tigers were captured by the forest department and transferred to Van Vivar Zoo in Bhopal where they will spend the rest of their lives! No place for wild tigers to live out their lives no matter how large or good the zoo is!. The third tiger implicated was a tigress who has 4 sub-adult cubs, one of which was one of the tigers transferred to Van Vivar zoo! The tigress has also been captured and incarcerated by the forest department leaving her remaining young sub-adult cubs to fend for themselves. The fate of her cubs remains uncertain as they will need to hunt for themselves and stay as a group for protection for around nine more months until they are old enough to defend themselves and their territory. Whilst their father is around, they have some protection from intruding males looking for a mate, but male tigers have several mates and do not give their cubs the same protection as their mothers would. This is human-tiger conflict at the extreme level. It is also a challenging and dangerous time for anti-poaching patrollers, as they are the tiger protectors and villagers are known to exact revenge on patrollers too. Our patrols must remain extra vigilant always whilst trying to restore a semblance of calm. We continue to roll out our forest safety education training and banners in the nearby villages to try to reduce the risk of further deaths of whether humans or tigers.
Our patrols continue to report the removal of wires and snares set to capture wild boar and herbivores which enter the villages to raid the farmers’ crops and livestock fodder. These wires and snares are indiscriminate and have killed tigers and their cubs in the past. Precious tiger lives can easily be lost when they follow their prey into the villages in search of food. This is why our projects to reduce human-wildlife conflict form a fundamental cornerstone of our efforts to keep wild tigers safe.
Where possible, we fight hard to keep both tigers and their prey out of the villages as it reduces the risk of retaliatory poisonings too. As the tough winter patrolling conditions are now behind us for another year, we are grateful for your donations which meant that 805 patrollers now havewarm winter jacketsfor thetackling the coldest patrolling conditions: https://goto.gg/56553. Grant funding from the Marjorie Coote Animal Charity Trust and from the Thin Green Line meant that only 200 patrollers are without a warm winter jacket now, something which we hope to address later in 2024. Our focus now turns to the 600 anti-poaching patrollers and chowdikars who desperately need full uniforms and boots as they have none. We recently ordered and supplied the first 55 of these uniforms and boots but it will take a mammoth fundraising effort to supply the rest this year (£16285/US$21350). https://goto.gg/56553.
Mahua and Tendu Picking
We don’t currently have either the funds or patrolling resources to expand the area which we patrol, as our team is already stretched to the limit with the increased patrolling workload. It is a dilemma; we don’t want to lose more migrating tigers but we also don’t want to reduce the protection in the areas we currently patrol. Just to add another 78 miles (125km) to our patrolling area would cost another £123 (US$160) per day, which right now is impossible. (https://goto.gg/28767). Soon the Mahua and Tendu leaf picking season will be upon us and human-wildlife conflict will undoubtedly increase alongside the risk of forest fires! Forest fires can quickly get out of control and our patrollers play a vital role in not only fighting the fires to prevent their spread but in the early identification of burning leaf litter, etc., which can easily lead to uncontrolled fires. For the next four months our patrollers will see their workload increase alongside the challenges they face.
Fundraising to cover our current patrolling costs continues to be a challenge so we don’t anticipate being able to extend our patrolling further before the monsoon. The poachers already know that most of the cubs born during the pandemic are old enough to leave their mothers’ protection and make their own way in the world, so we are already on high alert to address this risk and will endeavour to return to quadrupled patrolling for the monsoon peak poaching season in 2024 too. The vulnerable young tigers will face many challenges in their quest for a territory to call their own, not least sibling rivalry and aggression from their own parents. They will also face battles with other young adult tigers seeking to establish their own territories and other adult tigers which have already staked their claim. As young tigers migrate further afield, our brave men and women patrollers will risk their lives to keep them safe. It will be a challenge to protect them all! We are proud of our patrollers and their amazing efforts to keep wild tigers safe. During the last 3 years their workload has increased 3-fold and our patrollers have responded with outstanding efforts and hard work whilst poaching activity around India has reached a 15 year high. It is a miracle in such circumstances that we have been able to keep so many wild tigers safe!
A lack of volunteers in Bandhavgarh meant that we asked our patrollers to help us to deliver forest safety education training and banners to the villages alongside conducting their patrolling. Their dedication to duty is second to none, they took the extra workload on with a smile. So far, they have delivered forest safety education talks in more than half the villages and erected the banners so the message stays after they have left. Our patrollers have also put-up banners at key forest outposts where we know that humans pass through on their way home or in pursuit of other daily activities. Safety education will ultimately save lives and we hope if future funding can be obtained, we can roll-out the bi-lingual educational resources with forest safety infographics throughout Madhya Pradesh too. We still aim to develop an audio resource for future use which can be delivered by volunteers in the villages as part of a wider awareness and environmental protection programme. Our priority right now is to deliver the safety education messages to the remaining villages in Bandhavgarh first.
What Else are we Doing to Help
The recent increase in both human-wildlife conflict and Tiger-Tiger conflict around Bandhavgarh is a major concern, as highlighted above. As the wild tiger population continues to grow, the struggle to find sufficient territory to call home will intensify, and conflict incidents will increase in frequency, until more water and habitat can be provided to curtail it. We have spent the last month repairing solar pumps at five of our waterhole sites and preparing to provide our 20th permanent wildlife waterhole in the Dhamokhar buffer soon. On completion, we also plan to put another solar-powered wildlife waterhole in the Kithauli core area before the start of the 2024 monsoon. (https://goto.gg/34315). We also plan to put solar-polar lighting in 10 areas of known human-tiger conflict in the coming weeks as part of a pilot scheme to reduce the risk of tigers entering the villages and killing livestock and people. We will monitor the results closely before rolling out the scheme into other high-risk areas.
When conflict incidents are coupled with the increased risk of poaching activities, it means that our patrollers have to be on high alert at all times. We must, therefore, ensure that we can maintain a minimum of tripled patrolling especially throughout the next four months when we know that the poachers will be very active. https://goto.gg/28767.
Making a Difference
Thanks to your continued support, we continue to cover an extra 1800 km (1135 miles) of wild tiger territory per month with our tripled patrols. During the patrolling, it is essential to ensure sufficient time to search for snares; traps and signs of poisoners around forest areas where human encroachment is widespread as poachers are more active. We also need to maintain our patrols around the periphery of villages where crop raiding and livestock killing is also rife. Our increased patrolling helps us to curb human encroachment into wild tigers’ territories and allows us to provide safety advice for those trying to protect their crops and livestock from wandering elephants and tigers respectively.
With all the 60 tiger cubs born during the pandemic now young adults, we have many more wild tigers to keep safe, so your help is crucial. Yesterday. we received news of 6 more precious small cubs from two tigresses which will need our help too to add to 16 cubs we already learned about in February. Your gift, however large or small can make a huge difference as to whether Bandhavgarh’s wild tigers and cubs can survive the unprecedented threats they face:
- Your gift of £10 ($13) will provide 3 nutritious hot meals each for 2 anti-poaching patrollers whilst they protect wild tigers.
- Your gift of £25 ($33) will help us to pay a patrolling team for a day.
- Your gift of £30 ($39) will provide a day’s hot nutritious meals for a patrolling team whilst they work.
- Your gift of £45 ($60) will ensure that a team of anti-poaching patrollers can reach the remotest locations for a day’s patrolling.
- Your gift of £100 ($130) will enable a team of patrollers to cover 125km (78 miles) of wild tiger territory in a day.
- Your gift of £12 (US$16) per month will help us to pay an anti-poaching patroller to protect wild tigers for 35 days per year.
Without our help, we know that more wild tigers will die; and more humans will be mauled or killed due to encroachment or human-tiger conflict. Sadly, with every human life lost comes another threat to the wild tiger’s survival in the form of retaliation; thus we must protect both if we are to ensure that wild tigers can have a wild future.
Please don’t hesitate if you can help, your donation can be the difference between life and death for a wild tiger, as it helps to increase our patrolling when it is most needed. Every tiger and every tiger cub counts. Thank you for making our fight against poachers, the changing climate and human-animal conflict possible. (https://goto.gg/28767).
Tigress sitting in the road
Tigress Climbing down the rocks