Forest Fires, Drought and Heat in Bandhavgarh
Thank you for your incredible support for our Anti-poaching Patrols throughout the first 5 months of 2022. Your generosity has helped us to continue with increased patrolling as the new standard for 2022. Without your help this would be impossible. We can now ensure that the growing population of wild tigers and cubs is getting the best protection we can currently provide.
Triple patrolling the new standard outside the monsoon period and quadruple patrolling the new standard during the three months of the monsoon season, for 2022-23. From 01 May 2022, we increased the wages our patrollers receive by 14% to help them cope with rising costs post pandemic. Our transport costs associated with getting the patrollers to the remotest parts of the forest have also increased due to rising fuel prices. We’re trying our best to keep our costs down, where possible, but some increases are beyond our control. The new costs are now reflected in our main anti-poaching patrols project (https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/saving-bandhavgarhs-wild-tigers/).
The drought season is at its peak in Bandhavgarh. Temperatures are scaling new heights with each passing day leading to an increased risk of spontaneous fires and those caused by human carelessness. Our patrols are always alert at this time of year to fire risks, seeking to identify them early and extinguish them before they get out of control. Sadly, it isn’t always possible; you may have seen recently on our Twitter feed that a fire decimated 50 hectares (500,000 square metres) of tiger forest just over a week ago. Despite valiant efforts, the fire raged for 4 days and 3 nights before it was under control. One year on from the devastating fires at Easter 2021, 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. Wildlife waterholes are vital to fighting forest fires where fire vehicles cannot access jungle trails. (https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/water-for-bandhavgarhs-tigers/).
What we are Doing to Help
We are working hard to install at least two more permanent wildlife waterholes to restore water in forest areas already parched dry by drought before the end of June. If we can complete these in the next few weeks it will bring the total number of Tigers4Ever waterholes to 13. We had hoped to complete our twelfth waterhole already but we experienced damage to the borewell drill at two preferred waterhole sites and have had to survey other alternatives. You can read more about this in our waterholes project report here: https://tigers4ever.org/a-busy-few-months/.
Our patrols are also kept busy with aiding the early identification of forest fires to ensure these are controlled/quenched as quickly as possible. Our brave patrollers have years of experience in quenching forest fires and limiting their spread, but every fire where they spend hours fighting flames takes them away from essential patrolling duties. It is essential, therefore, to keep our anti-poaching patrols tripled to ensure wild tigers and their cubs are safe. We were fortunate enough to receive grant funding from the Marjorie Coote Animal Charity Trust which enabled us to undertake tripled patrolling in March. We grateful to receive further Grant funding from the Jean Sainsbury Animal welfare trust, which will enable us to undertake quadruple patrolling during the monsoon which given the increased risk of poaching is absolutely essential.
It is quite difficult for our patrollers right now, with daily temperatures in Madhya Pradesh already reaching 48°C (118°F), which is higher than normal for this time of year. With these temperatures set to persist for a few more weeks coupled with 94% less pre-monsoon rains across the state, our patrols will need to exercise caution to avoid heatstroke especially whilst trying 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.
Tendu and Mahua Collection
The tendu leaf (Indian tobacco) and mahua flower (used to make Indian alcohol) picking season is well underway. Often the Mahua pickers start fires to create demarcation zones, which if left unattended can cause widespread forest fires. Villagers enter the forest in droves in the early morning to collect the tendu leaves and mahua flowers, which 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 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 over a month 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 her claws inflicted.
There are no winners in such 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.
Patrols on High Alert
Our anti-poaching patrollers are recruited from villages around Bandhavgarh so they know the locals and regular collectors well, having encountered them over the last 7 years. This helps to reduce the risk of strangers (poachers) entering the forest unnoticed and keeps 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 needed to be on high alert throughout the last three years as wild tiger poaching increased across India. Just last week, our patrols received a stark reminder of the dangers they face when three policemen were shot dead by a gang of black buck poachers in the nearby district of Guna. The economic impact of the pandemic is still being felt in India and beyond, which continues to 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 increased patrolling, which enables us to protect an extra 1000 km (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. If you wish to continue to support our anti-poaching patrols please donate to: https://goto.gg/28767 as this project will continue throughout the years to come.
Making a Difference
Thanks to your continued support, we can cover an extra 1000 km (624 miles) of wild tiger territory per month with our increased patrols. This is vital whilst forest fires continue to ensure sufficient 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. 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 more than 50 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).