Tigress and Cub at Tigers4Ever WaterholeNews

Monsoon Challenges

A little over a year ago when we launched this project, we had ambitions to replenish and replace worn out essential equipment and provide the new equipment that modern anti-poaching patrollers need. We knew that this would be a mammoth task as some of the equipment we needed to replace had been provided over the preceding 12 years. It’s nothing short of amazing therefore that whilst writing this report we must thank you for your incredible support during the last 12 months. Without your support we couldn’t have done half of what we have done in the last year. Your support has ensured that we have been able to provide the essential waterproof clothing needed by 1005 anti-poaching patrollers In just over one year. Thank you, your support has been truly amazing. We know that many of continue to face incredibly testing times midst the seemingly endless cost of living crisis; so we continue to be very grateful for any support you can give.

Rain, Rain and More Rain

it’s very unusual for rain to fall in Bandhavgarh in March, April, May and early June, But this year that’s exactly what happened. These rains were much heavier through the freeman soon showers typical of late June. As a result, Bandhavgarh’s scorched terrain was refreshed and regenerated by the early rains. The problem with the early heavy rains was that 455 brave anti-poaching patrollers still lacked the essential waterproof clothing and equipment they needed. Thanks to your recent donations we were able to provide 170 sets of waterproof clothing in early June. This week we have ordered further 285 sets of waterproof clothing, thanks to grant funding we are due to receive from the Olsen Animal Trust. Together with your kind donations this means every single anti-poaching patroller in Bandhavgarh now has waterproof clothing provided by Tigers4Ever. Quite some achievement indeed!

The waterproof clothing provided doesn’t just protect the patrollers from adverse weather conditions it also protects them against snake bites which are common killers during the monsoon season. So we’d like to thank you on behalf of the patrollers’ families for helping to keep their loved ones safe.

Challenging Seasons

We don’t know yet whether the heavy monsoon rains will end in early September this year or not, as was the case in 2022, but we must prepare for all outcomes, nonetheless. With this in mind, we’re now turning our attention to the equipment needs for the forthcoming winter in Bandhavgarh. Each year the winters keep getting colder so the need for warm boots and warm clothing increases year on year. Last winter thanks to your kindness we were able to provide warm winter jackets for 355 brave patrollers. A further 650 patrollers still need warm winter clothing. Thus, we must now decide whether to prioritise waterproof boots, snake rescue and relocation kits, rechargeable flashlights or warm winter clothing with the remaining funds we have.

The equipment needs of our patrols are also changing as poachers and other miscreants deploy new techniques to evade capture or discovery. Equipment needs to be lighter, more versatile and more durable than before. It seems likely that fundraising for new equipment and replacement equipment will be a long-term project moving forward. In the monsoon season, it is harder to see poachers’ tracks and spot the lethal snares and traps set in the thick undergrowth. At these times, one of the simplest pieces of patrolling equipment is potentially the most valuable in preserving the lives of our patrollers. The simple wooden cane which all our patrols carry is invaluable for checking to undergrowth for jaw traps, snares and tethered snares. Tethered snares can be fatal for patrollers too as they discharge thousands of volts of live electricity into the unsuspecting limb which touches them. We issue wooden canes to our patrollers because wood is a poor conductor of electricity, and it gives the patroller chance to let go of the cane should they touch one of these lethal snares. The cane also protects the feet and legs of our patrollers because it can be used to disarm the more traditional jaw traps and snares, which could cause the loss of a foot for an unsuspecting patroller should they step into and trigger one.

At night, in pitch dark conditions, the head torches and powerful flashlights are also invaluable kit as they provide glimpses of reflections in the eyes of wild animals and of the metal from hidden snares and traps.

Forest Dangers

When we talk to our patrollers about the dangers they face each day, it still surprises us to learn that their greatest fear is not that of coming face to face with a wild tiger, it is the encounter with humans which they fear most. Every patroller we’ve asked has told us the same, the most dangerous moment in the forest is when they encounter humans! Our patrollers say that humans are unpredictable which makes them more dangerous. They could have guns or other weapons and launch unprovoked attacks. They could react badly to being caught in the forest, and when they outnumber the patrolling team will frequently try all means to get away, including attacking/beating up the patrollers who have discovered them. Sometimes, the humans save their retaliation for later and may attack a patroller when they are off duty or returning home alone. For these reasons, we always try to ensure that a patrolling vehicle is close by, in case back up is needed or rapid transfer to a medical facility. Attacks by wild animals on our patrolling team are thankfully quite rare and we adopt a safety in numbers approach to foot patrolling to reduce the risk of human attacks in the field.

Changing Seasons

The wet weather during the monsoon brings new fruit in the trees, a precious commodity for the villagers who struggle to make ends meet. Fruit picking increases human encroachment into the tigers’ forest home to maximum levels, and consequently tiger attacks become more frequent too. Yesterday we received news from our patrolling team that an elderly villager had been killed by a tiger whilst picking fruit and cutting grasses for his cattle in the forest. Often these attacks are serendipitous, as the tiger mistakes the crouching human for a grazing deer. As the tiger approaches and senses that the human isn’t prey but an intruder in its forest home, the attack is in defence. Sometimes the tiger is indifferent to the human presence, but if it is a tigress with cubs nearby, she may see the human as a threat to her young and cast the first blow. In many cases, the human is startled by the sudden appearance of the tiger and stands upright quickly whilst waving their arms around aggressively. The tiger sees this action as a threat and strikes the first blow. The human weighing around 65kg (143lbs) doesn’t stand a chance against the mighty tiger’s 230+kg (506+lbs) and the single blow can prove fatal if the person’s head hits the ground with force or deep wounds bleed out quickly.

The victims are frequently the family’s only income provider, and this can lead to the villagers plotting a retaliatory attack on the tiger or leaving poisoned bait for the tiger and cubs to eat. Our patrols always need to be extra vigilant when there has been a tiger attack, not just for retaliation but also for the tiger returning to attack more people. It is a fine balance always, but it worth remembering that more humans kill tigers every year than the reverse, and that more people are killed annually in Bandhavgarh by snakes than by tigers. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t a massive loss to the family concerned, but it does emphasise the role of our anti-poaching patrols in providing safety information to those they encounter in the forest; and educational resources which help to protect both the wildlife and human populations.

What else are we doing to help?

We are keeping our patrols quadrupled during the monsoon season to counter the increased risk of encroachment, retaliatory poisonings and poaching at this time of year. Our work on new permanent wildlife waterholes is on hold until after the heavy rains subside. Our waterholes already provide year-round water for more than two thirds of Bandhavgarh’s wild tigers and their prey. You can also read the latest report for our waterholes project here.

With the cold winter months ahead, we urgently need your help to provide a further 650 warm winter jackets so patrolling can continue on the coldest days and nights. To equip every patroller with a winter jacket, we need to raise another £14300 ($18590) so that the brave men and women who risk their lives each day to keep wild tigers safe can keep going in the cold. Any help you can give will be most welcome. Even the smallest donation will be a huge help in these difficult times.

Making a Difference

With your continued support, we can cover an extra 1000 km (624 miles) of wild tiger territory per month with our increased patrols, in wet weather conditions too, without essential winter equipment this may reduce! It is vital to ensure sufficient time to search for snares; traps and signs of poisoners around forest areas where human encroachment is widespread; 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 60 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 £22 ($27) will provide a warm winter jacket for an anti-poaching patroller
  • A gift of £110 ($135) will provide winter jackets for a team of patrollers enabling them 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 provide an anti-poaching patroller’s essential equipment for a year.

Making your Gift Count Twice

Your new online monthly gift of £12 (US$15) per month won’t just help us to provide an anti-poaching patroller’s essential equipment for a 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.

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 keep our patrolling going 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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