Sub-Adult Tigers need TerritoryNews

Coping with Changes

The monsoon season seemed to fly by this year, perhaps it was because such a lot happened? Once again monsoon rainfall was variable and stop start in nature. Such conditions present many challenges for our anti-poaching patrollers and those people who live with wildlife at their door. Before I go on, I must thank you for your continued tremendous support for our efforts throughout some incredibly challenging times. Thank you, we couldn’t do what we do without your loyal support.

In the last 13.5 years, I have dealt with reports of tiger attacks, poaching activities, and deaths of both wildlife and humans, but the 2023 monsoon season has seemed the strangest of them all. A recent conversation with one of our most senior anti-poaching patrollers confirmed that it wasn’t just me when he said: “This has been the strangest September monsoon I can remember since 1995!” when I asked why, his response was straight to the point: more rain, more thunderstorms, more tiger deaths and more human deaths! Obviously, it wasn’t the response which I had hoped for; but with daily contact with our team in India even I had been increasingly concerned by the reports we had received. In over 16 years of knowing Bandhavgarh and its wild tigers, I hadn’t seen such terrible events either! As many of you will know if you have been following our conservation efforts for a while, the primary purpose of our projects is to is to keep wild tigers safe and reduce conflict. That is both human-wildlife conflict and tiger-tiger conflict. This year it has been harder than ever.

Very Different Challenges

In our July report we told you how unseasonal rainfall in the period between March and June had presented very different challenges from those usually experienced in the hot dry drought season. Fewer forest fires, a very short mahua picking season and difficult conditions underfoot for both anti-poaching patrols and vehicles transporting essential equipment for waterhole construction and repairs, too.

July had a strange beginning too: inadequate early rainfall left the farmers worrying about a repeat of insufficient water which led to the 2022 rice crop failures. As July progressed a sudden darkness like nightfall descended upon Bandhavgarh bringing thunderstorms which persisted for days on end! The seasonal rivers were soon overflowing and breaking their banks, roads and tracks were flooded making vehicle movement almost impossible. The knee-length waterproof boots we provided for the anti-poaching patrollers and their waterproof clothing are vital in such conditions. This vital equipment protected our anti-poaching patrollers from fatal snakebites as well as from the pouring rain. This is important because over 50% of snakebite fatalities occur annually during the monsoon season. The heavy rainfall pleased the rice farmers though.

Essential Equipment

The 2 additional snake capture and rescue kits which we provided proved vital as venomous snakes became much more aggressive and frequently entered patrolling camps and peoples’ homes, in August. With the nearest hospital more than an hour away, preventing snakebites is the best way to ensure survival. If you follow Tigers4Ever on Twitter (X) you will know that one our long-time volunteers, Vikram, was bitten by a cobra this year and spent 3 days in hospital fighting for his life. Thankfully, being young and strong helped Vikram to pull through but many snakebite victims in rural areas are not so fortunate. In August, a 7-month-old tiger cub was killed in the Panpatha buffer forest by an intruding tiger. Sadly, infanticide is difficult to prevent in the jungle as alpha male tigers will always fight for territory and females, killing any dependent cubs to ensure that their own bloodline succeeds. August also brought an increase in Human-wildlife conflict as older tigers find hunting widely disbursed prey during the monsoon a challenge and often enter the villages in search of cattle, buffalo or goats as easier prey.

Human-wildlife conflict continued to increase in early September with news of an aggressive young male tiger killing two herdsmen in the Majhkheta area of the Manpur buffer forest. The villagers were angry and aggressive towards the anti-poaching patrols, demanding the capture and incarceration of the responsible tiger. Our patrols provided safety advice to the villagers and conducted extensive patrols of the area to ensure that no traps or poisonous bait had been laid in anticipation of the tiger’s return. For many years, human-wildlife conflict has been a significant problem in the Manpur buffer and Tigers4Ever tries tirelessly to reduce the conflict by providing educational resources so that the children of impacted families could go to school; providing desks and seating for a 100 pupils at the Damna school; by increasing our patrolling in affected areas to drive troublesome predators back into the forest; and ensuring that the most recently affected villages were amongst the first to receive our latest forest safety banners and talks. Sometimes, no matter what we do it never seems like enough.

There was more news of wild tigers dying in tiger-tiger conflict and more humans being attacked and killed by tigers in early September too! Cattle lifting by wild tigers also peaked in September, which always increases human-wildlife conflict but especially so when the same herdsman or village suffers repeated losses week upon week. Tigers4Ever has worked hard in the last 13.5 years to both increase compensation amounts for loss of life and loss of livestock and to improve the speed at which compensation for losses is paid. This helps to mitigate the losses but doesn’t alleviate the problem which is why more permanent wildlife waterholes and habitat restoration projects are so vitally important. The best way to reduce human-wildlife conflict is to reduce the need for wildlife to enter the villages and vice-versa.

The numbers of both wild elephants and wild tigers have increased dramatically over the last 4 years and wildlife encounters for Tigers4Ever anti-poaching patrollers can be extremely dangerous too. Thankfully, we always ensure that help is at hand for our team with forest department rangers and a patrolling vehicle close by. These help to keep a lookout for approaching wildlife and other dangers, helping to get back-up when it is needed. In good visibility, the langurs high in the treetops provide advance warning of approaching predators too. Knowing the different calls of the jungles wild animals is a vital survival tool for all our anti-poaching patrollers. It is a primary reason for recruiting team members who have grown up near to the jungle with wild animal encounters throughout their lives.

Tiger and Elephant Numbers are Still Increasing

Wild elephants in Bandhavgarh continue to cause most of the human-wildlife conflict. There isn’t a short-term solution to this problem as many factors need to be addresses concurrently. The wild elephant population continues to grow, and they need space, water and food. Years of forest degradation due to illegal logging, clearance for crop growing, forest fires and plundering of scarce forest resources for both human and livestock benefit, means that a sustained project of forest regeneration and management is required to redress the decline.

Prior to the pandemic, Tigers4Ever put forward an ambitious proposal for tree planting and habitat restoration, which would be implemented over a 4–10-year period so that reforested areas could be self-sustaining. It cannot be done in isolation as more waterholes would be needed in the reforested areas to aids natural wildlife and seed dispersal. During 2023-2024 we hope to raise sufficient funds to kick-start this project and to plant quick growing vegetation which elephants can eat in areas of denuded forest around potential waterhole sites. In time, the new forest canopy will help to retain natural water in streams and pools within the rehabilitated area, but in similar projects elsewhere it can take 10-15 years to achieve. With water and forest cover, more than just elephants will benefit, deer and other herbivores will thrive too.

This project is also essential to reducing tiger-tiger conflict, as the tiger population increases more tigers need more space and more food, reforestation will help. As Bandhavgarh’s wild tiger numbers continue to increase, more space and more prey are vital for their future survival. Tigers4Ever anti-poaching patrols will play a vital role in stabilising and increasing prey numbers too, as many snares and traps are set for herbivores for meat to be sold but this removes the food for predators too. When there is a shortage of water and food, deer and other prey animals don’t breed which means less food for the growing predator population. Tiger-tiger conflict is the result, as they fight for limited available prey. Tiger cub survival rates are still around 90-95% (which is much higher than the 50% average for wild tigers!), whilst this is good news for the wild tiger population, it increases the need for better habitat, more water and more prey.

Our experience shows that the best way to reduce Human-Wildlife conflict is to prevent prey animals from going to the villages in search of water and food. Thus, we will again prioritise our permanent wildlife waterhole projects as the drought season begins in early 2024. In the interim our focus is on keeping the wildlife safe from poachers and poisoners and ensuring that all the patrollers have the essential equipment needed to ensure that they can perform at their best level whatever the weather and forest challenges throw at them.

100% Match Bonus on New Monthly Donations

This year our friends at GlobalGiving are giving us the chance to gain bonus matched funds on new monthly donations all year (2023) by providing a 100% bonus in matched funds on new monthly donations so long as you donate for at least four months. Imagine if 200 of you wonderful people read this report and donate just £10 ($13) per month each, we will raise the funds needed to keep wild tigers safe for a year: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/saving-bandhavgarhs-wild-tigers/?show=recurring. With bonus matched funds too we’d be well on the way towards ensuring that wild tigers, their prey and wild elephants stay safe for another year! It would be amazing if during this matched funding campaign, we could raise a total of £24000 (US$29400) so that we can keep more than 160 wild tigers and their cubs safe from poachers’ traps.

If you are able to help during 2023,; so it’s a great time to start a monthly donation now because whatever you donate is sure to have a great impact for wild tigers.

Anti-Poaching Patrols are critical to wild tiger survival rates. There are currently more tiger cubs (64) in Bandhavgarh than the total number of wild tigers (37) counted in the 2010 Tiger Census, when Tigers4Ever started work there, so we need to do everything we can to prevent wild tiger deaths due to retaliatory response to human-wildlife conflict and poaching. With your help, we can raise enough to keep our patrols at the highest levels and save Bandhavgarh’s wild tigers and cubs.

Our Future Challenges

We need to keep wild tigers safe right now. Our anti-poaching patrols are tripled to address the risk of retaliatory poisoning and poaching. With your help, we can keep more wild tigers safe.

These are some of the ways you can help us to save wild tigers:

  • A gift of £10 ($14) will provide 3 nutritious hot meals each for two anti-poaching patrollers who protect wild tigers.
  • A gift of £25 ($31) will help us to pay a patrolling team for a day.
  • A gift of £30 ($37) will provide a day’s hot nutritious meals for a patrolling team whilst they work.
  • A gift of £45 ($56) will ensure that a team of anti-poaching patrollers can reach a remote location for a day’s patrolling.
  • A gift of £100 ($125) will enable a team of patrollers to cover 125km (78 miles) of wild tiger territory in a day.
  • A monthly gift of £11 (US$15) per month will help us to pay an anti-poaching patroller for 35 days per year.

Giving Tuesday

This year on Giving Tuesday (28 November 2023) our friends at GlobalGiving are offering a share of $1.2million on your online donations on the day. The more we raise the greater our share will be. If you can give a gift on Giving Tuesday it will be truly amazing, for sure. This makes Giving Tuesday a truly special time to help us save wild tigers with a new monthly donation which will achieve two bonuses – one on Giving Tuesday and one on month four. This is a time when your impact for the wild tigers can be so much greater.

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.

If you can’t afford to donate perhaps you could become a Tigers4Ever fundraiser, and ask your friends, colleagues and family to donate to your fundraiser.

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