A Long Hard Winter Ahead
Firstly, I want to apologise for mentioning COVID19 again, I know that like many people you must have had your fill of this never-ending virus by now! In our defence, it is hard not to mention it, as we are well into the seventh month of peak poaching season (something which is normally from the end of June to the beginning of October) with no end in sight. Both human-animal conflict and tiger-tiger conflict have increased massively in recent months as humans delve further and further into the jungles in search of something to sell and tigers push into each other’s territory to try to avoid the human impacts on their hunts. Each morning when the phone rings, I pray that it won’t be news of another tiger killed in a territorial fight or a human mauled to death whilst picking fruit, incidents which are sadly on the increase too.
Your support and donations over the last six months have been truly amazing, thank you. Without you we couldn’t have sustained our increased patrolling until now. As the colder weather arrives in Bandhavgarh over the coming months, we will face new challenges in circumstances of familiar risk, as early morning mists hide the movement at ground level but also increase the risk of a hidden snare or trap staying out of sight. The increased human presence in the forest makes it easier for poachers to move around disguised as fruit pickers but with ulterior motives. Our patrols need to be on high alert around the clock to ensure any such devices are found and destroyed before they can cause harm to wild tigers. Keeping the increased patrolling in place whilst these risks persist is absolutely essential to keep wild tigers safe.
On 01 October 2020, the National Parks around India opened their gates to tourism and normally this would mark the end of Peak Poaching Season and a return to normal measures, but due to the impact of COVID19, there are very few tourists around – they are either too afraid to travel; unable to travel due to local restrictions; or unable to travel due to international restrictions. The impact of all of these is the same, with only 10% of normal tourism levels there is still a 90% reduction in paid employment for those living with wild tigers, thus they enter the forest to plunder its “free” resources to sell and put food on their tables. With so many more people in the forest the scarce resources are being quickly depleted, forcing people deeper into the forest where they risk not only their own lives but those of the wild tigers too.
These human encroachments continue to threaten the wild tigers and their habitat on a daily basis, thus escalating the need for increased patrolling to continue indefinitely. Increased patrolling is fine in principle, we have enough registered patrollers to cover the extra shifts, the problem comes with the increased cost of the additional patrolling, from April to June our patrolling costs increased by 60% compared to the costs we had budgeted for and from July to October our costs were doubled, meaning that in little over 7 months our patrolling costs to date are slightly more than our usual costs for a year. Thankfully, we managed to get a GlobalGiving Micro-grant of $1000 to help us with the initial impacts of COVID19, since June, your generosity has helped us to keep our outstanding record of tiger conservation going, as it’s been over 66 months since the last retaliatory poisoning of a tiger in Bandhavgarh, and more than 4 years since we last lost a tiger to a poaching incident. Without your support and generosity, the lives of Bandhavgarh’s wild tigers would be at risk.
We need to be honest with you about the severity of what we’re facing in the coming months: we are already anticipating at least a 56% increase in patrolling costs for 2020-21 and this could be even higher if the increased poaching threat continues into 2021. Right now, all of our efforts are focused on our patrolling and keeping wild tigers out of the deadly wire snare traps which are often set for crop raiding wild deer and other herbivores. As the monsoon drew to a close, more and more cubs are leaving their mothers’ dens as they learn to explore their jungle home and follow their parents’ hunts. Some wild tigers are still breeding right now, so we know that more new cubs will be born over the next few months, too. This makes it even more important to keep our increased patrolling to ensure that these tigers and their cubs are safe over the coming months, a real challenge, but one we’re confident that we can deliver on with your continued help.
As you already know, our patrollers are not only shielding Bandhavgarh’s wild tigers from poachers’ snares and traps; their presence helps to prevent locals from engaging in illegal activities which put wild tigers at risk. Without our patrols, Bandhavgarh’s wild tiger population would face insurmountable obstacles at every turn.
Without funds, no patrols
To continue to patrol at the increased levels we’ve done since the onset of the COVID19 crisis, we need to raise at least 56% more each month. If we don’t do this, we’ll have no choice but to cut back or even stop our patrolling! If we stop the patrols, the wild tigers won’t stand a chance against the threats exacerbated by COVID-19:
1. More human-tiger conflict
Many people in Bandhavgarh still lack regular income; some haven’t had paid work since 25 March 2020! Their desperate need for income to survive causes them to risk their own lives as they encroach into wild tiger territory to search for anything they can sell. The jungle is rich with fresh growth following the monsoon rains, fruit, grasses and trees which can be chopped down to sell as food, animal fodder and logs respectively, but as the encroachment goes deeper into the forest, the lives of both tigers and humans are in danger.
In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a woman mauled to death by a tiger whilst she was picking amla fruit, a farmer was trampled to death by wild elephants and another villager was badly mauled by a tiger whilst deep into tiger territory collecting amla fruit to sell, he remains in hospital in a critical condition as I write this report. The consequences of these animal attacks are crippling more families with uncertain futures. This brings the number of tiger attacks on humans to 7 in a few short months, compared with 2 in 14 months prior to the COVID lockdown. Wild elephant attacks on people, villages, and crops have been continuous throughout the last week, with whole crops decimated, the threat of retaliatory aggression towards wildlife and their protectors always looms.
2. Desperate people driven to poaching
People turn to poaching because they’re forced to find a means to survive; whether they intend to kill tigers or not, the traps they lay are indiscriminate. In neighbouring, Maharashtra, tiger and leopard poaching has been on the increase throughout the COVID19 lockdown; this week, 3 tiger poachers were apprehended in nearby Panna (Madhya Pradesh), just a few hundred kilometres from Bandhavgarh, after a month long search. Peak Poaching Season is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, as people continue to struggle with the impact of COVID19. To ensure that our efforts to date to double the number of wild tigers in Bandhavgarh aren’t wasted, we need to keep our increased patrols going.
3. Wild Tigers need you
Human-led patrols are the only way we can tackle human-induced issues. Without funds, we can’t meet the demand for increased patrolling; the situation in Bandhavgarh continues to be extremely dangerous for humans and tigers alike.
Every single donation will help us to save wild tigers’ lives. Did you know that giving just £20/US$26 can pay an anti-poaching patrol team to keep wild tigers safe for a day? The current crisis means that we need people like you to help wild tigers in Bandhavgarh now: https://goto.gg/28767.
Your donation can be the difference between life and death for wild tigers, as it supports our increased patrolling when it is most needed. Be confident in the knowledge that by donating to a small charity like Tigers4Ever, your money has a huge impact. Our Patrollers can keep wild tigers alive by educating villagers and reducing human-animal conflict. We’ll also keep you updated on how your gift has been spent.
Every tiger and every tiger cub counts. Thank you for making our fight against poachers, the changing climate and human-animal conflict possible.