New Uniform & Boots for Anti-Poaching PatrollersNews

The Next Phase

When we launched our Patrolling Equipment project in late Summer 2022, we knew that the pandemic had hit hard and we couldn’t keep pace with the renewal and replacement kit needs for the brave men and women who risk their lives to keep wild tigers safe, from our patrolling costs alone. Today we know that without your tremendous support most of these patrollers would be suffering from the seasonal weather extremes with inadequate or inappropriate kit. Your generosity has helped us to ensure that every patroller has waterproof clothing during the harsh rains of the monsoon season and 80% of the brave patrollers have warm jackets to help them stay out on patrol on the coldest winter days and nights. Thank you, we couldn’t have achieved this without your amazing support. We know that many of you are still facing incredibly challenging times midst the seemingly endless cost of living crisis; so we are extremely grateful for any support which you give.

When we launched this project, we wanted to replenish and replace worn out essential equipment and provide the new equipment that modern anti-poaching patrollers need. It is still a mammoth task as some of the equipment which needs replacing is more than 13 years old. Your phenomenal support has blown us away. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your incredible generosity and support, without which we couldn’t have done half of what we have done. Your support helped us to provide 1005 essential waterproof clothing sets for the anti-poaching patrollers in little over a year. This is alongside 804 warm winter jackets, 150 powerful flashlights and the snake rescue kits which save human and animal lives. Thanks to you, the brave anti-poaching patrollers in Bandhavgarh are better equipped to face their daily challenges.

Uniforms Make a Big Difference

Wearing a uniform is very important for the brave men and women anti-poaching patrollers who keep wild tigers safe, it is more than just protection from their work environment, it distinguishes them from forest intruders and interlopers. In challenging situations, it helps the patrollers command the authority and respect they deserve. When the patrollers lack the proper uniforms and kit it frequently leads to their requests being ignored or disrespected by those encroaching into the forest or conducting illicit or illegal activities. That is why we are now prioritising uniform supply for the 600 brave men and women who desperately need new uniforms and boots this year. In January this year, thanks to your generosity, we were able to provide full uniforms and boots for 55 brave patrollers as part of this initiative. We still have a long way to go, but it was a good start to the year.

The right equipment is absolutely essential to ensuring that these brave patrollers who risk their lives to keep wild tigers safe are protected whenever they are on foot. We need to raise £16500 ($21120) to provide new uniforms and boots for the remaining 545 patrollers who are in desperate need of these, so that is our priority right now.

Other Equipment too

As the warmer weather and monsoon rains approach the need for more Snake rescue kits will increase too. These kits provide vital protection for both the snakes and humans too. It is not uncommon for snakes to enter peoples’ homes or patrolling camps looking for a warm place to sleep. Venomous snakes present the biggest danger to a sleeping, off-duty or resting patroller as they cosy alongside the warm body and inflict an often-fatal bite should the poor unsuspecting patroller move. Thus equipping patrolling camps with a snake rescue kit not only allows patrollers to rescue snakes from people’s homes and relocate them into a safe part of the forest; they allow patrollers to rescue their fellow patrollers from a potentially fatal bite whilst they are sleeping too. It is hard to imagine that snakes actually kill more than 58000 people annually, which is significantly more than attacks by wild tigers, yet tiger attacks always make headline news! More than three quarters of people killed by snakes each year are children and young adults. Each snake rescue kit costs around £220 ($275) and can save many lives (snakes and human) as they can be used over and over. It would be great if every remote patrolling camp could be equipped with a snake rescue kit but there are many other urgent needs too and only a small number of patrollers are currently trained in their safe use. Such needs will certainly keep us busy for many years to come.

The heavy monsoon rains bring darker days, which means more patrolling in darkness or twilight which is often accompanied by wet and treacherous conditions. With this in mind, we will prioritise more rechargeable powerful flashlights alongside the uniforms highlighted above. We received grant funding in December which helped us to buy 100 flashlights, however, this still left more than 855 patrollers without. We counter this by sharing one powerful flashlight between two or three patrollers who are on duty together, but even then we still need 205 more powerful flashlights as a minimum. Help us provide equipment for our anti-poaching patrollers.

The equipment needs of our patrols are constantly changing as poachers and other miscreants deploy new techniques to avoid capture or discovery. Modern patrolling equipment needs to be lighter, more versatile and more durable than before. As a result, fundraising for new and replacement equipment is likely to be a long-term project going forward. At night, in pitch dark conditions, wooden canes, head torches and powerful flashlights are invaluable kit to provide reflections in the eyes of wild animals and of the metal from hidden snares and traps, and to provide a means of disarming those traps without losing a limb.

Daily Dangers

When we talk to our patrollers about the daily dangers they face, it always surprises us to learn that they fear encountering humans more than a wild tiger whilst they are on patrol. Every patroller we ask says the same thing, the most dangerous moment in the forest is when they encounter humans! Our patrollers tell us that humans are unpredictable and that is what 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 an off-duty patroller as they return home after a long shift in the forest. To counter these risks, we always try to ensure that a patrolling vehicle is close by, in case back up or rapid transfer to a medical facility is needed. Thankfully, attacks by wild animals on our patrolling team are quite rare and we adopt a safety in numbers approach to foot patrolling to reduce the risk of human attacks whilst on duty.

Human-Wildlife Conflict Again

The cold foggy winter morning may be over but sadly encroachment into the forest is not. Already this year, encroachment into the forest has led to two more human deaths, one in the Manpur buffer forest and the other in the Panpatha forest. It seems strange that despite the safety education and warnings these villagers still risk their lives to graze their cattle in the forest! Sadly, the villagers are growing crops which take every millimetre of space for food for human consumption, so there is nowhere for their livestock to graze. Most tiger attacks are serendipitous, where the tiger mistakes the crouching human for a grazing deer. Sometimes, however, the tiger attacks in self-defence as it retaliates for being hit by a stick as the villager tries to protect his livestock. The tiger instinctively senses that the human isn’t prey but an intruder in its forest home, the attack is in defence, and the intruder has been defeated. Tigers can also be indifferent to the human presence, but tigresses with nearby cubs are always dangerous when humans approach. Sometimes 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. A 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 often the only income provider in the family, and this can lead to villagers initiating retaliatory attacks on the tiger or leaving poisoned bait for the tiger and cubs to eat. Our patrols always have to be extra vigilant when there has been a tiger attack, not just for retaliation but also for the tiger returning to attack again. It is always a fine balance, but it worth remembering that more humans kill tigers every year than the reverse, and that more people are killed 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 at the highest levels to counter the increased risk of encroachment, retaliatory poisonings and poaching throughout the year. Our work on new permanent wildlife waterholes has recently resumed with the repair of five solar pump systems being prioritised prior to commencing work on the Bhainsmooda waterhole project. Our existing waterholes already provide year-round water for around two thirds of Bandhavgarh’s wild tigers and their prey. We are also installing solar street lighting at the entrance to 10 villages where human-tiger conflict is rife, in an attempt to reduce the conflict by deterring tigers entering the villages at night. This is a new initiative which is based around a similar scheme which is helping to reduce human-tiger conflict in the Sundarbans.

With the peak encroachment and poaching season ahead, we urgently need your help to provide another 545 full uniforms and boots so patrolling can continue for every patroller at the optimum level. To equip every patroller with a uniform and boots, we need to raise another £16500 ($21120) so that the brave men and women who risk their lives each day to keep wild tigers safe can keep going in the challenging conditions ahead. 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, without essential 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 in the last two years, we have many more wild tigers to keep safe now. We need your help. 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 are facing:

  • A gift of £35 ($44) will provide a full uniform and boots for an anti-poaching patroller.
  • A gift of £80 ($100) will provide powerful flashlights for a team of patrollers enabling them to cover up to 125km (78 miles) of wild tiger territory in a night.
  • 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 More

Your new online donation of up to £40 (US$50) will also qualify for a 50% match bonus on the first donation if you donate during the GlobalGiving Little by Little Campaign from 08 – 12 April 2024. That means when you donate at £40 (US$50) we will receive an extra £20 (US$25) from GlobalGiving to help us save wild tigers. Thus, this is a great time to make an additional donation or start a new monthly donation.

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.

May I take this opportunity to wish those of you who celebrate it a Happy Easter and Happy Passover, and wish everyone the very best in the forthcoming season, thank you again for your amazing support.

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