Poachers Strike Again

A Young Male Royal Bengal Tiger Seeks a New Home in the forests of Bandhavgarh, India
A Young Male Tiger Seeks a New Home

The cost of living crisis has maintained its stranglehold on many of us in recent months, so we are truly grateful for your continued amazing support for our anti-poaching patrols, thank you. Without your help our Anti-Poaching Patrols would already be reduced to no more than the double patrolling we did initially post pandemic. Something which worries us massively, as poaching incidents of both wild tigers and their prey continue to rise in both Madhya Pradesh and other Indian States. Your generosity has helped us to maintain treble-patrolling throughout the first quarter of 2023, something which is absolutely vital as we move into peak poaching season. Without your help, continuing this additional patrolling will be impossible for the remainder of this year. Your donations play a huge role in ensuring that the growing wild tiger and cub population continues to get the best protection we can provide.

Losing any Tiger is a Tragedy

In the last three months, we have witnessed the deaths of three wild tigers from territorial fights, two of which were breeding age tigresses so their loss will impact the wild tiger population for several years. These deaths are a tragedy in their own right, but they have been compounded by the killing of two more tigers, by poachers, outside the boundaries of Bandhavgarh! Both tigers were young adults migrating from Bandhavgarh in search of new territory when the poachers struck.  These incidents remind us just 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 triple patrolling workload. 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.

Right now, 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. In just three short months we will need to increase our patrols to quadruple patrolling throughout the 3-moth 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 which also want to establish their own territory 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 these wild tigers 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.

What our Patrollers have been Doing and what they Face next

Over the winter months, our patrollers have faced some of the coldest temperatures since our patrolling began back in 2015. The warm winter jackets we were able to provide, thanks to your generosity, proved to be an invaluable addition to the patrollers’ vital kit. Another challenge came over the festive period and early January when thick fog persisted for fifteen days without lifting. This was a very dangerous time for the brave men and women foot patrols as visibility was reduced to just 2 metres (6 feet) which meant seeing wild animals and poachers’ traps required supreme concentration and care. The wooden canes which we provide in the equipment kit are absolutely vital at these times as the patrollers use them to poke the deep undergrowth ahead in case snares or traps are concealed below. Did you know that we provide wooden canes because they do not conduct the electric current from tethered snares? If we used metal canes, touching a tethered snare would prove fatal for our patrollers too!

No sooner had the fog cleared when the next challenge of the onset of the drought season faced our patrols. During the drought season, human encroachment into the forest increases as villages bring their livestock into the forest to graze, whilst helping themselves to fruit from the trees, and cutting down bamboo for fences and branches or trees to sell or burn the wood.  The drought season also brings the start of the tendu leaf and mahua flower picking seasons, which also results in more human activity in the forest. During this time our patrollers have to be extra vigilant in respect of strangers in the villages and forest. Poachers are known to disguise themselves as family members and join the tendu and mahua pickers in the forest so that they can set snares and traps undetected. As we recruit our anti-poaching patrollers from the villages around Bandhavgarh, it helps us to notice when strangers are around and going into the forest. Where this is the case, we increase the foot patrolling especially around power lines and the periphery of the villages so no unusual activity goes unnoticed.

The Mahua picking season is particularly testing for our patrollers as villagers set fire to piles of leaves at the base of mahua trees to cause the trees to shed their flowers. These fires can easily get out of control and burn huge areas of forest destroying many trees, grasslands and killing thousands of small animals and birds which are both vital for seed dispersal and food for many other forest animals. Those of you who have been supporting our efforts for a while will know that our brave patrollers are actively involved with quashing forest fires every year; and that Tigers4Ever waterholes provide water needed to quench the flames and create firebreaks to limit the spread of these fires. Sometimes, it is not enough, because the wind can suddenly change direction and the fire burns the forest away from the firebreaks. In such circumstances, the consequences can be devastating. Last year forest fires raged all around Bandhavgarh from March until early July. Monitoring and fighting the fires takes foot patrollers away from their patrol beats where they would be checking for snares and traps. Thus maintaining triple patrolling right now is essential to ensuring that we can protect both the wild tigers and their forest home.

Increasing Awareness

We are also developing bi-lingual educational resources with forest safety info-graphics 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 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 600 brave patrollers without this vital equipment, so we must work hard to raise enough funds to equip as many as possible in the next three months! To provide this vital equipment for all 600 patrollers we would need to raise another £6600 (£8250) as quickly as possible. This would help us to ensure that every patroller can carry out their vital duties as the monsoon rains arrive (https://goto.gg/56553).

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’re trying to get each set of waterproofs, including boots, shared by two patrollers (one day shift/one night shift) but this isn’t a long term solution as the flood conditions can persist for days on end. If you can help, each set of waterproof clothing costs just £11 ($14) 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 6 people living with wild tigers who make and distribute the clothing and boots too.

A young royal Bengal tigress walks through a river in Bandhavgarh, India, to keep cool as the temperatures soar
A young tigress walks through a river to stay cool

Wildlife and Human Casualties

Over the last few months we saw 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 a 15 year old boy and an 18 year old boy in separate incidents, and another tiger badly mauled a senior ranger who was conducting his morning patrol. Thankfully, the rest of the patrolling team rescued the ranger and after a spell in hospital, he has now recovered. We have also witnessed three wild tiger deaths due to territorial fights in the last couple of months too. 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. We are currently in the process of providing two more permanent wildlife waterholes, including a large waterhole in the buffer forest where all seasonal water sources are already bone dry. This waterhole should be complete within the next few weeks, and 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 within the next few weeks as the drought season is already here and forest fires will be another challenge to be faced by our patrols within a couple of weeks (https://goto.gg/34315). 

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. https://goto.gg/28767.

Making a Difference

Thanks to your continued support, we cover an extra 1000 km (624 miles) of wild tiger territory per month with our trebled 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. (https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/saving-bandhavgarhs-wild-tigers/?show=recurring).  Between 07 – 11 April 2023, GlobalGiving is adding  a 50% matched funding bonus to all new online donations we receive up to the value of $50 (£38), donations above this value will receive a $25 (£19) bonus matched funds regardless of the donation value: https://goto.gg/28767.  This is an excellent time to give, even if you can only donate £5 or $10 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. (https://goto.gg/28767).

Waterproof Equipment is vital for Anti-Poaching Patroller Safety. Here a patroller is wearing full waterproof equipment including knee high boots to give protection against snake bites
Waterproof Equipment is vital for Patroller Safety

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