Wild Tigress BandhavgarhNews

Early Monsoon Rains and Poachers

Thank you for your continued tremendous support for our anti-poaching patrols, during these challenging times. Without your help and generosity our Anti-Poaching Patrols would already be reduced to pre-pandemic levels. This is a major concern for us as our reserves become depleted because poaching incidents of both wild tigers and their prey continue to rise in Madhya Pradesh and throughout India. Thanks to your generosity we have maintained treble-patrolling throughout the first half of 2023, and have moved to quadruple patrolling for July which is the first month of peak poaching season. Without your help though it will be impossible to continue this additional patrolling for the remainder of the monsoon season or the rest of this year. As a small charity, we rely heavily on individual donors like you to deliver our essential services. Your donations are vital in ensuring that the growing wild tiger and cub population continues to get the best protection we can provide.

Strange Weather and Changing Plans

Since the end of March, we have seen some very unusual weather in Bandhavgarh. Normally it would be the height of the drought season and see the onset of the picking season for Mahua flowers and tendu leaves, and the onset of the forest fires which threaten habitat destruction each year. This year, a period of heavy rain at the end of March cut short the mahua picking season and reduced the number of early season forest fires.

Initially, this seems like a good thing because the forest has new life as shoots and saplings statrt to come through, plus habitat loss is curbed due to fewer fires. More green foliage and wetter surfaces are definitely a plus for forest regeneration. Encroachment into the forest also reduced as the mahua picking season came and went in a flash. The long term consequences of a short mahua picking season are yet to be felt as the mahua pickers will need to find another income source to survive. This worries us because poaching or giving sensitive information to poachers may become the preferred income source for these poor rural villagers who desperately need money to feed their families.

Our anti-poaching patrols were ready to introduce a new training programme into their brief when they encountered the mahua pickers, which involved a safer way to collect the mahua flowers without the need of fires to burn leaf litter and without the risk of being killed by tigers if mistaken for a crouching deer. The training involved on site demonstrations when encountering the mahua pickers in the forest but the encounters were few in number due to the early rains ending the picking season weeks ahead of schedule. To work effectively, the training needs to be delivered to maximum numbers and embraced by all as a new way of working. We will need to revisit this again.

The strange weather continued in April with a week’s sustained downpours towards the end of the month. By which time, snakes were becoming more active and consequently snake bites more frequent. Temperatures also fell dramatically to just 22°C (72°F) instead of the 40°C (104°F) usually seen in April. The heavy rains made conditions underfoot much more treacherous for both foot patrolling and the patrolling vehicle, plus increased the need for waterproof clothing and boots before the monsoon. Wet conditions also wash away footprints which makes tracking poaching activities more difficult. Whilst thunderstorms sometimes bring down power lines which makes it easier for poachers to use tethered snares and disguise the power outage as weather related. These are just a few of the reasons why increased patrolling is absolutely essential during the rainy season.

The unseasonal wet weather continued in May as well, with thunderstorms featuring heavily in the third and fourth weeks. One of the benefits of this heavy rainfall in the early warm season was new growth with bamboo turning from black to green and providing much needed food for deer and elephants too. Nonetheless the continued rainfall caused problems for our anti-poaching patrols as conditions for the patrolling vehicle and under foot became treacherous again.

Further Challenges Ahead

Only time will tell what the long-term impact of the unseasonable rains will have on the monsoon season, as rain in March, April, May and June is unprecedented. Mahua fruit picking started almost a month earlier than usual and with it came further encroachment into the forest. Once again, our patrollers encountered illegal wood cutting in the forest on an almost weekly basis. This has been particularly challenging in June as tracks are often washed away which makes tracking the culprits more difficult.

In recent months, three migrating wild tigers died from territorial fights, two of which were tigresses so their loss will impact the wild tiger population for several years. These deaths were a tragedy in their own right and have been compounded by the poaching of another two tigers beyond the Bandhavgarh boundary! Both tigers were young adults migrating from Bandhavgarh in search of new territory when the poachers struck. These incidents reminded us how difficult it is to keep the poachers at bay 100% of the time. We currently have neither the funds nor patrolling resources to expand the area which we patrol, as our team is already stretched to the limit with the quadruple patrolling workload started in July. 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 will cost another £123 (US$154) per day, which right now is impossible.

Currently fundraising to cover our existing monthly patrolling costs is quite a challenge so we don’t anticipate being in a position to extend our patrolling further until the cost-of-living crisis ends. For the next three months we have increased our patrols to quadruple patrolling for the duration of the monsoon period which is also peak poaching season. The poachers know that many of the cubs born during the lockdown are now old enough to leave the protection of their mothers and make their own way in the world. These vulnerable youngsters 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 these young tigers migrate further afield, our brave men and women patrollers will risk their lives to keep them safe. It will be quite a challenge to protect them all. Our patrollers, have worked so hard over the last three years as poaching has increased to a 15-year high. It is nothing short of a miracle that we’ve been able to keep so many wild tigers safe.

Increasing Awareness

We have developed bi-lingual educational resources with forest safety infographics for all age groups, to be distributed by our anti-poaching patrollers when they patrol around the villages and when they meet villagers in the forest. These laminated cards and village notices will provide safety information in a format similar to the safety cards many of us will be familiar with from travel by plane or boat. We decided to add words as well as pictures so that the villagers would recognise the words on safety and access notices which are posted at the entrances to the forest. We also want to develop an audio resource which can be delivered by volunteers in the villages as part of a wider awareness and environmental protection programme.

Patrollers need help too

As the monsoon rains fall, patrolling conditions will become more treacherous as roads and tracks are flooded and venomous snakes become more active!, During this time, waterproof clothing and knee length waterproof boots are vitally important for patroller safety. There are still more than 285 brave patrollers without this vital equipment, so we must work hard to raise enough funds to equip as many as possible in the next few weeks! To provide this vital equipment for all 285 patrollers we would need to raise another £3000 (US$4200) as quickly as possible. This would help us to ensure that every patroller can carry out their vital duties as the monsoon rains arrive ().

Without this vital equipment, patrolling will cover shorter distances as the flood waters rise: leaving wild tigers and their cubs vulnerable to poachers’ snares and traps. Where possible we’ve tried to share each set of waterproofs, including boots between two patrollers (one day shift/one night shift) but this isn’t a long-term solution as the flood conditions persist for days on end. If you can help, each set of waterproof clothing costs just £11 ($14) and will not only keep a patroller protecting wild tigers for 12 hours per day but will provide much needed employment for up to 6 people living with wild tigers who make and distribute the clothing and boots too.

Wildlife and Human Casualties

The last few months have seen an increase in both human-wildlife conflict and Tiger=wildlife conflict around Bandhavgarh. This resulted in deaths of both leopards and humans by wild tigers, and tigers killing each other too. Since our last report, five leopards were killed by wild tigers including 2 cubs and a breeding pair. Two different tigers killed young boys of 15 and 18 years old in separate incidents, and another tiger badly mauled a senior ranger during his morning patrol. Thankfully, the rest of the patrolling team rescued the ranger and after a spell in hospital, he recovered. As the wild tiger population continues to grow, the struggle to find sufficient territory to call home will intensify, and incidents like these will increase in frequency, until more water and habitat can be provided to curtail the conflict. Our work to provide two more permanent wildlife waterholes has been paused due to the rains. We did, however manage to complete work at a large waterhole in the buffer forest where all seasonal water sources were already bone dry. This waterhole will benefit at least 7 tigers and their cubs, plus wild elephants. We are also surveying another dry area of forest in the Dhamokhar buffer forest to provide year-round water in a large waterhole midst the territories of 9 tigers. Hopefully, we can start work on that project too when the monsoon rains subside.

When these incidents are coupled with the increased risk of poaching activities, it means that our patrollers continue be on high alert at all times. We must, therefore, ensure that we can maintain a minimum of tripled patrolling especially throughout the next six months when we know that the poachers will be very active. Support our anti-poaching patrols.

Making a Difference

Thanks to your continued support, we cover an extra 2000 km (1248 miles) of wild tiger territory per month with our quadrupled monsoon patrols. Without the vital equipment needed to beat the monsoon weather conditions, this could reduce until the drier weather returns. During the wet weather, 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 almost half of the 60 tiger cubs born since the lockdown now reaching young adult stage, we have many more wild tigers to keep safe, so your help is crucial. Your gift today, however large or small can make a huge difference as to whether Bandhavgarh’s wild tigers can survive the unprecedented threats they face:

  • 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 £12 (US$15) per month will help us to pay an anti-poaching patroller for 35 days per year.

Making your Gift Count Twice or More

Your new online monthly gift of £12 (US$15) 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$15) monthly in month 4 we will receive an extra £12 (US$15) from GlobalGiving to help us save wild tigers. Thus there has never been a better time to start a new monthly donation than now. On 12 July 2023, GlobalGiving is adding at least a 30% matched funding bonus to all new online donations we receive above the value of $100 (£76), whilst bonus funds last. This is an excellent time to give, especially if you can make a larger donation as your impact for the wild tigers will 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.

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