Patrols for All Seasons
Thank you for your continued incredible support which has helped us to equip many of our Anti-Poaching Patrollers with the vital equipment they need. We couldn’t have done this without your help! We know that many of continue to faced incredibly testing times midst the seemingly endless cost of living crisis; so we’re very grateful for any support you can give. Your generosity helped us to keep 355 anti-poaching patrollers warm and dry whilst they protected wild tigers during the freezing cold winter mornings and nights. The brave men and women who risk their lives to keep wild tigers safe were very appreciative of their warm jackets as the coldest temperatures took hold.
Fifteen Days of Fog
Winters in Bandhavgarh are getting colder year on year, and thus the equipment needs of our patrols are also changing. It isn’t uncommon for early morning mists during the cooler winter months, but usually the mists have cleared by mid-morning as the sun rises and warms the day. Winter 2022-23 was very different from usual though. During December, thick fog descended and blanketed Bandhavgarh’s forests for 15 consecutive days. Visibility was down to just a couple of metres (around 6 feet) which made patrolling very dangerous and challenging too. With such poor visibility, the alarm calls of the langur monkeys, which provide an early warning for an approaching tiger, leopard or wild dogs, are impacted too. The langurs perch high in the trees but are unable to see the predator’s approach due to the blanket of fog below. A greater reliance is thus placed on the alarm calls of the chital (spotted deer) which often make false alarm calls when they detect the scent of a tiger’s spray in grasslands, which could be days old. Nonetheless, the patrollers must heed these forest warnings as their own range of vision is impaired.
It is just the approach of a predator which brings danger and new challenges in the fog, it is harder to see poachers’ tracks and spot the lethal snares and traps set in the thick undergrowth too. 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 foggy 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.
When we talk to our patrollers about the dangers they face each day, we are sometimes surprised to learn that their greatest fear is not that of coming face to face with a wild tiger, it is a very different animal they fear most. Every patroller we’ve asked has told us the same answer, the most dangerous encounter in the forest is when they encounter humans! Our patrollers say the same thing, humans are unpredictable. They could have a gun or other weapon and launch an unprovoked attack. 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 discover them. Sometimes, these humans save their retaliation for a later time and may attack a patroller when they are off duty and 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.
As the seasons change, each brings different challenges for our anti-poaching patrols. We are now in the drought season, temperatures are rising each day and finding fresh drinking water to recharge the patrollers’ re-usable water bottles can be hard too. Tigers4Ever waterholes help immensely with this because each borewell pump has a tap where clean safe drinking water can be obtained by the thirsty patrollers. There aren’t enough safe waterholes where drinking water can be obtained in the field, sometimes because there is no underground water to access, other times because a waterhole is needed but not yet in place, and others because the elevation of the forest is too high. We have tried to counter some of the water shortages at patrolling camps with the provision of drinking water tanks which can be filled either by rainwater collection during the monsoon period or via water tankers which visit the camps. Sadly some camps cannot be accessed by the water tankers or the trucks which deliver the drinking water tanks, so patrollers based out of those camps often have to walk some 10+ miles to recharge their water bottles when empty.
The warmer drier weather also brings the tendu leaf and mahua flower picking season, when human encroachment into the tigers’ forest home is at maximum levels, tiger attacks become more frequent too. Just yesterday we received news from our patrolling team that a villager had been killed by a tiger whilst picking mahua flowers 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 differs. 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 victim is often the only income provider in the family, and sometimes this leads to the villagers plotting a retaliatory attack on the tiger or laying down poisoned bait. 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.
Getting ready for the Monsoon Rains
Just around the corner is the monsoon season, when 99% of all the annual rainfall in Bandhavgarh occurs. This is also peak poaching season, and thus keeps our patrols very busy too. Last summer we started to replace all the worn out waterproof clothing for the brave anti-poaching patrollers. More than 1000 brave men and women patrollers urgently needed waterproof clothing and boots to enable them to protect wild tigers during torrential monsoon rains. With your help, we were able to provide 400 new waterproof jackets and trousers, and knee length waterproof boots which do more than just keep the patrollers’ feet dry; they protect them against fatal snake bites too! However, 600 brave patrollers still need waterproofs before the next monsoon rains start, and we will once again need your help to provide these. (https://goto.gg/56553).
We need to raise £11800 ($15000) to ensure that every patroller can keep wild tigers safe as the monsoon rains set in and poachers become hyperactive! Without this vital waterproof equipment, our patrols won’t be able to patrol the same distances as the tracks and roads become flooded. Our greatest fear is that this will leave wild tigers and their cubs vulnerable to poachers’ snares and traps. Where possible we try to ask 2 patrollers to share one set of waterproof equipment (one day shift/one night shift) but this isn’t a long term solution as the rains persist for longer each day. If you can help, providing a full set of waterproof equipment for one patroller costs just £20 ($25) https://goto.gg/56553 and will not only keep a patroller protecting wild tigers for 12 hours per day but will provide much needed employment for up to 4 people living with wild tigers too. Vital employment which helps to prevent others becoming wildlife poachers too!
What else are we doing to help?
We are keeping our patrols trebled over the next three months to counter the increased risk of encroachment, retaliatory poisonings and forest fires at this time of year. We’re also trying to complete work at two more permanent wildlife waterholes in the Kithauli-Biruhli and Dhamokhar buffer forests within the next month. Once complete, these waterholes will bring the total number of Tigers4Ever waterholes to 14, reducing the pressure on human water resources and thus reducing human-wildlife conflict. Our waterholes already provide year round water for more than two thirds of Bandhavgarh’s wild tigers and their prey. You can read the latest report for our waterholes project here: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/water-for-bandhavgarhs-tigers/reports/?subid=209897.
With the rainy monsoon months ahead, we urgently need your help to provide a further 600 sets of waterproof equipment so patrolling can continue on the wettest days and nights. To equip every patroller with a set of waterproof equipment, we need another £11800 ($15000) so that the brave men and women who risk their lives each day to keep wild tigers safe can keep going in the rain. Any help you can give will be most welcome: https://goto.gg/56553. Even the smallest donation will be a huge help in these difficult times. Plus if you can donate online between 03-07 April 2023 your donation will receive a 50% matched bonus donation on the first $50 (£38) of your donation throughout the week, thanks to GlobalGiving’s LittleByLittle match funding. Definitely a good reason to help us keep our patrollers out in the forest for wild tigers we think!
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 waterproof 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 £20 ($25) will provide a set of waterproof equipment for an anti-poaching patroller
- A gift of £100 ($125) will provide waterproof equipment 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. (https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/protecting-tiger-protectors/?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 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. (https://goto.gg/56553).
If you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to read our latest blog post on the work we are doing to keep wild tigers safe as poachers increase their activity: https://tigers4ever.org/poachers-strike-again/