By Dr. Corinne Taylor-Smith | Project Leader
Forest Fires are a Challenge for Our Patrollers
We were absolutely blown away by your incredible support for our Anti-poaching Patrols throughout 2021. Your generosity has helped us to make increased patrolling the new standard for 2022, which we think is fitting as 2022 is the Year of the Tiger! Thank you so much for making this possible and ensuring that the growing population of wild tigers and cubs is getting the best protection we can currently provide.
For 2022-23 we have made triple patrolling the new standard outside the monsoon period, and with your help we hope to make quadruple patrolling the new standard during the three months of the monsoon season. As with everywhere else right now, some of our core costs have escalated as fuel prices and living costs have increased. Due to this, there will be a few small changes to our project breakdown costs as we are increasing wages for our patrollers by 14% and need to cover the increased transport costs associated with getting the patrollers to the remotest parts of the forest. We’re doing everything we can to keep our costs down, where possible, but some increases are beyond our control.
Each day the temperatures are rising in Bandhavgarh as the drought season takes hold, with it comes an increased risk of spontaneous fires or those caused by human carelessness. Our patrols are always alert at this time of year to the risk of fires, seeking to identify them early and extinguish them before they get out of control. You may remember that in 2021 devastating fires raged through Bandhavgarh at Easter time killing thousands of animals, birds and trees vital to forest ecology. One year on, there are still areas of forest scorched by the fires, devoid of life, needing a breath of new life from seeds dispersed by insects, birds and other animals. It could take years for the recovery to start, which makes it even more important to protect the remaining forest from new fires.
What we are Doing to Help
Over the last four months we have completed work at three new permanent waterholes for wildlife projects which have restored water in areas of the forest already parched dry by drought. In the last week we’ve also started drilling at a fourth new waterhole site, in an area where human-wildlife conflict and poaching activities have always been a threat to the survival of wild tigers and their cubs. You can read our latest project report on our waterholes here: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/water-for-bandhavgarhs-tigers/reports/?subid=188601.
As outlined above, our patrols are helping with the early identification of forest fires to ensure these are addressed and quenched as quickly as possible. Our brave patrollers are well trained in the skills necessary for quenching forest fires and limiting there spread, but every fire where they spend hours fighting takes them away from essential patrolling duties. This is why keeping our anti-poaching patrols tripled is vital for keeping wild tigers and their cubs safe. We were fortunate enough to receive grant funding from the Marjorie Coote Animal Welfare Foundation which enabled us to undertake tripled patrolling this month. This has enabled us to plan forward for our patrolling right up to the monsoon season at triple levels which given the increased risk of forest fires during the drought season is absolutely essential.
It is quite difficult for our patrollers right now, with daily temperatures in Madhya Pradesh already reaching 43.4°C (110°F) some 6°C (11°F) higher than normal for this time of year. With these temperatures set to persist and a 94% reduction in pre-monsoon rains across the state, our patrols will need to exercise caution to avoid heatstroke in addition to the need to prevent the spread of forest fires. All our patrollers are equipped with refillable water bottles which are essential kit right now. Our patrols call at forest department patrol camps, where Tigers4Ever has provided safe drinking water tanks, to refill their water bottles whilst in the field.
The Collection of Forest Produce
With the hot summer months comes the tendu leaf and mahua flower picking season, these are used to make Indian tobacco and Indian alcohol respectively. Villagers enter the forest in droves in the early morning to collect the tendu leaves and mahua flowers, but this is a very dangerous time of day as tigers are more active at dawn and dusk as they hunt whilst the temperatures are lower. Over the last few years, many more villagers have turned to collecting leaves or flowers as a source of income because the pandemic robbed them of their livelihoods. This means more people in the forest and thus a greater risk of human-animal conflict, but it also means that poachers can seize the opportunity to enter the forest under the guise of being tendu or mahua collectors.
It’s not just the collection of produce to sell which drives the villagers into the forest in the drought season; it is the need to feed themselves and their livestock too. As the summer months progress and the land becomes parched, herders take their livestock into the forest to graze, something which can cost the lives of both the farmers and their animals. Just 10 days ago we received news that a villager had been killed by a tiger as he grazed his cattle in the core forest. The farmer had placed himself and his cattle between a tigress and her young cubs. The tigress did what was natural and attacked the man, striking him to the ground with a single blow from her extended claws. His survival chances were slim and he died from the wounds inflicted by her claws.
There are no winners in these situations, the family is left without its main income earner and the angry villagers often call for action against the tigress to prevent future attacks. Education is key to both avoiding future tiger attacks and retaliation against the tiger. Despite the best efforts of our patrollers to give safety advice and the Tigers4Ever safety notices at key entry points in the forest, some villagers choose to ignore the advice and can lose their life.
Local Knowledge Helps
One of the major benefits of recruiting our anti-poaching patrollers from the villages around Bandhavgarh is that they know the locals and have familiarised themselves with the regular collectors over the last 7 years since our patrols began. This reduces the risk of strangers (poachers) entering the forest unnoticed and ensures that our patrols are on high alert when they encounter an unfamiliar face. This is something which has become increasingly important since the pandemic when so many daily waged Indians lost their jobs in towns and cities before returning to rural communities to eke out a living.
Our patrols have been on high alert almost constantly for the last three years as wild tiger poaching has continually increased across the whole of India. Madhya Pradesh, being the Tiger State (with the highest number of wild tigers in India) and Bandhavgarh in particular can be targeted at any time as poachers seek to capitalise on the increase in wild tiger numbers. The economic impact of the pandemic is still being felt in Bandhavgarh, as with many other parts of India and beyond, which will always increase the likelihood of the poorest most desperate families turning to poaching for an income.
We know that many of the poachers who lay the snares and traps are just poor people desperate to feed their families, they’re not the ring leaders who facilitate the trade in wild tiger body parts nor do they make huge sums from their heinous acts. That’s why our new triple patrolling standard, which enables us to protect an extra 1000km (624 miles) per month of wild tiger territory, is vital. Without your support, this would be impossible, so thank you on behalf of the wild tigers we’re keeping safe https://goto.gg/28767.
Since our last report, even more tiger cubs have been born so we know that the wild tiger population in Bandhavgarh is still increasing. We eagerly await the results of the latest tiger census which are due later this year; however, our focus right now is on keeping all these additional tigers safe.
This is the Year of the Tiger, in the Chinese zodiac, and there is a lot of momentum gathering as we approach the date set by all 13 tiger countries to double the number of wild tigers at both country and at a global level since 2010. It is anticipated that India will still be home to more than two thirds of the global wild tiger population, which in turn will doubtless increase the poaching demand. One thing is for sure, we cannot assume that our successes to date mean that wild tigers are now safe. They are safe because they are being protected and measures are being introduced to reduce human-tiger conflict. If we stop patrolling, sadly, wild tigers will die https://goto.gg/28767.
The mahua season is here and with it comes the increased risk of forest fires. Today our poaching patrols had to quench a forest fire which raged because collectors burnt leaves around the base of mahua trees to aid their flower harvest, and their fires weren’t controlled. These forest fires can continue to burn for days on end, with efforts to extinguish them hampered by changing winds. Where possible our patrols help to create fire breaks to stop the flames in their tracks, but sometimes they risk their own lives helping forest department rangers to beat down the flames as fires spread. Such bravery in saving wild animals and their forest home should not go unnoticed.
The risk of forest fires will be high for the next few months as the forest is parched dry through lack of rainfall and searing heat. Wild tiger habitat cannot afford to be ravaged by fires as there is precious little left. Our increased patrolling will help to identify fires early, create fire breaks and help with extinguishing the fires when needed. This is extra work for our patrols in addition to the regular anti-poaching duties so our decision to make tripled patrolling the new standard will be vital to ensuring the safety of Bandhavgarh’s wild tigers from all the threats they may face. (https://goto.gg/28767)
Making a Difference
Right now, thanks to your continued support and with tripled patrols, we’re can cover an extra 1000 km (624 miles) of wild tiger territory per month. This gives us more time to search for snares; traps and signs of poisoners around forest areas where human encroachment is rife; and around the periphery of villages where crop raiding and livestock killing is rife. It also gives us more time to fight the forest fires which are prevalent at this time of year. 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 over 50 new tiger cubs born since the start of the pandemic, we have many more wild tigers to keep safe now. So we still need your help. Your gift today, however large or small can make a huge difference as to whether Bandhavgarh’s wild tigers can survive these unprecedented threats:
- A gift of £25 ($35) will help us to pay a patrolling team for a day
- A gift of £30 ($42) will provide hot nutritious meals for a patrolling team for a day whilst they’re on duty
- A gift of £45 ($63) will ensure that we can transport a team of anti-poaching patrollers to a remote location for a day’s patrolling
- A gift of £100 ($142) will ensure that a team of patrollers can cover 125km (78 miles) of wild tiger territory in a day
- A monthly gift of £12 (US$17) per month will help us to pay an anti-poaching patroller for 35 days per year.
Making your Gift Count Twice
Your new online monthly gift of £12 (US$17) per month won’t just help us to pay an anti-poaching patroller protecting wild tigers for 35 days per year; it will also qualify for a 100% match bonus on the first donation amount if you keep donating for 4 months or longer. That means when you donate at £12 (US$17) monthly in month 4 we will receive an extra £12 (US$17) from GlobalGiving to help us save wild tigers. Thus there has never been a better time to start a new monthly donation than now. (https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/saving-bandhavgarhs-wild-tigers/?show=recurring).
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).
Little By Little Campaign 2022