Alpha Male Tiger in Seasonal WaterholeNews

Time to Renew and Build

With 2023 finally over and the brunt of early morning foggy conditions beginning to pass in Bandhavgarh, we can finally plan our next wildlife waterhole with more certainty. Winter has been quite a challenge for both our anti-poaching patrols and our existing waterholes. Cold weather and wild elephants have taken their toll on two more of our waterholes bringing the number of solar pumps needing repairs up to five. Whilst the 4-fold increase in human-wildlife conflict has certainly kept our patrols very busy too. Back in the UK we have added 5 new members to our team of dedicated volunteers, to help us cope with the increased workload and demand for new help for the wild tigers. As many of you will already know if you have been following our conservation efforts for a while, the primary purpose of our wildlife waterhole project is to reduce both human-wildlife conflict and tiger-tiger conflict. That is something which is becoming a 365 days per year requirement now.

Before I continue, I must thank you all for your tremendous support for our vital efforts through some increasingly challenging times. Thank you, we couldn’t do a fraction of what we do without your loyal support.

Five Solar Borewell Pumps to Repair

In our October report we told you how strange weather patterns had impacted three of our solar powered pump systems and unseasonal rains had created difficult conditions underfoot for both anti-poaching patrols and vehicles transporting essential equipment for waterhole construction and repairs. Winter brought the new challenge of near freezing temperatures and dense fog which persisted for days on end and reduced visibility to less than 100 metres (328 feet). Such conditions make waterhole repairs and construction too dangerous because the workers have to work where wild tigers, leopards, wild dogs and bears roam freely. All our workers rely on the jungle alarm calls as an early warning system to move to safety when a predator is approaching but if the langur monkeys can’t see the ground for dense fog the alarm calls aren’t sounded early enough! The delays are doubly frustrating when the human-tiger and tiger-tiger conflict continues to rise.

We had to be patient, and this week the engineer has been on site at each of the five solar pumps needing repairs. He has assessed the damage at each and determined what can be fixed and what needs to be replaced. The total cost of the repairs for the first three waterholes including elephant damage was close to £1000 ($1350) and with two further waterholes to repair that figure is nearer to £1500 ($2025). These repairs will take everything we had set aside for waterhole repairs for this year and leave a shortfall of almost £600 ($810) for us to find. If you are able to help at all, all donations however large or small will be most welcome.

A New Waterhole

The essential repairs outlined above won’t impact our next wildlife waterhole project in the Dhamokhar Buffer as we have already set aside funding for that project in late 2023. The impact will be on future waterhole projects including the one proposed in the Kithauli Core Zone, which we planned to start after finishing the Dhamokhar waterhole project. Rising costs and the cost-of-living crisis continue to present fundraising challenges, alongside a 4-fold increase in demand for our help. With wild tiger numbers quadrupled in Bandhavgarh since 2010, we are now facing increased urgency for both forest rehabilitation (native tree and native grassland planting) alongside a need for more wildlife waterholes.

In 2023, India had a reported 181 wild tiger deaths, the highest number for 15 years and a 50% increase on 2022. Fourteen of the 181 wild tiger deaths were Bandhavgarh tigers with 5 young adults dying whilst trying to migrate to new territories and 9 dying due to increased Tiger-Tiger conflict. The situation at the start of 2024 makes grim reading too, with 2 of the 16 reported wild tiger deaths in India being from Bandhavgarh. Again Tiger-Tiger conflict has claimed the lives of two young tigers confirming that drastic action is essential now! We want to increase wild tiger territory and even create protected wild tiger corridors so young adults can safely disburse but these new territories will need water too and much more funding than we can currently raise. In 2024, we plan to talk to corporates about planting trees to offset their carbon footprint and grant funding bodies to hopefully kickstart this 4-year project soon. In the meantime, our attention will turn back towards fixing 5 solar pump systems and completing our 20th wildlife waterhole in the Dhamokhar buffer.

November and December brought more news of humans being attacked and killed by tigers and a sloth bear as human-wildlife conflict continued to increase. Cattle lifting by wild tigers has also peaked in the last quarter, which as always has increased human-wildlife conflict. This is especially the case when the same herdsman or village suffers repeated losses week upon week. Tigers4Ever has worked hard for over 13.5 years to both increase compensation amounts for loss of life and loss of livestock and to improve the speed at which compensation for losses is paid. This is important in both mitigating the losses and reducing the risk of retaliatory poisoning; but it doesn’t remove the problem which is why more permanent wildlife waterholes and habitat restoration are vitally important now! The best way to reduce human-wildlife conflict is to reduce the need for wildlife to enter the villages and vice-versa.

Good News from the Panpatha Buffer

The good news about our waterhole project in the Panpatha Buffer is that it continues to provide water for wild tigers and their prey at 6 sites including the main waterhole, which means that Tigers4Ever is now providing water for wild tigers at 18 waterholes in Bandhavgarh. We have also received news that sub-adult tigers which disbursed into areas of the forest which were previously devoid of year-round water sources are making new territories of their own. This is something which is vital as the wild tiger population continues to grow. Your kind donations make waterholes like these possible and help us to fight the effects of climate change on wild tigers whilst trying to reduce human-wildlife conflict year-round. Without your help we will be unable to provide more safe forest homes for disbursing young wild tigers.

We Still Want to Harvest Rainwater Too

As we mentioned in our October report, we have identified at 5 sites, which are unsuitable for solar-powered pump systems, where rainwater harvesting projects can provide year-round water solutions. We plan to revisit these schemes alongside our habitat restoration projects as they will be labour intensive and may require us to bring in outside expertise to train local people in the construction techniques. As always, our priority is to use local labour whenever possible to ensure that the community which lives with wild tigers can see their benefit and thus help to protect them.

There are still many areas in the forest which are without permanent water resources and without access to underground water which would benefit from rainwater harvesting projects. We know that rainwater harvesting will provide a sustainable long-term solution for drought situations and is lower maintenance than the solar pump systems, thus will reduce forest disturbance overall. For now, though we will continue to provide solar-pump systems for permanent wildlife water as we work our way through the latest list of ten high priority locations in need of water.

Tiger and Elephant Numbers Increase

Wild elephants in Bandhavgarh continue to cause much of the human-wildlife conflict alongside the burgeoning wild tiger population. As we have said previously, there isn’t a short-term solution to this problem as so many factors need to be addressed concurrently. As with the tigers, the wild elephant population is growing and needs more space, water and food. There is now an urgent need to reverse the impact of years of forest degradation due to illegal logging, clearance for crops, forest fires and plundering of scarce forest resources! A sustained project of forest regeneration and management is urgently required to redress the decline.

The time for action is now! The proposal which Tigers4Ever put forward pre-pandemic is currently being updated and we hope to start our ambitious tree planting and habitat restoration project during our 2024-2025 financial year. This project will be implemented over a 4–10-year period to allow reforested areas to be self-sustaining. More waterholes will also be needed in the reforested areas, as highlighted above, to ensure the return of wildlife and aid natural seed dispersal. During the first part of 2024 we hope to raise sufficient funds to kick-start the project so we can plant quick growing native grasses, bamboo & other shrubs, bushes and trees. These will provide food for many animals including elephants in areas of denuded forest around future waterhole sites. As the forest canopy establishes, it will help to retain natural water in streams and pools within the rehabilitated area, but this can take 10-15 years to achieve. With water and forest cover, more than just elephants will benefit, deer and other herbivores will thrive too.

This project is essential to reducing tiger-tiger conflict too. As Bandhavgarh’s wild tiger population continues to increase, more tigers need more space and more food. Reforestation will help as more space and more prey are vital for the future survival of the growing population. Tigers4Ever waterholes play a vital role in both stabilising and increasing prey numbers. Where water and food are absent, deer and other prey animals don’t breed so there is less food for tigers and other predators. Tiger-tiger conflict is the result. Tiger cub survival rates are still around 90-95% (which is much higher than the 50% average for wild tigers!), whilst this is good news for the wild tiger population, it also increases the need for better habitat, more water and more prey.

More Waterholes are Needed

To sustain the growth Bandhavgarh’s wild tiger population, more permanent wildlife waterholes are needed in areas which can support both prey and predator dispersal. More than 10 locations have been identified and work is underway to determine the availability of underground water sources for solar pump systems and sites suitable for future rainwater harvesting projects.

This will be a major challenge for Tigers4Ever as more providing so many wildlife waterholes right now when they are needed, will cost much more than we can currently raise, especially as many people are still struggling due to the cost-of-living crisis. Your continued support and donations are vital to ensuring that our waterholes project can address the need as soon as is possible. We need to raise at least £18000/$23750 to provide 3 medium sized waterholes and we need 10+ which will cost at least £60000/$79200! With funding we can mobilise local labour, but without this it will take time.

The best way to reduce Human-Wildlife conflict is to prevent the prey animals from going to the villages in search of water and predators following. Thus, we prioritise our permanent wildlife waterhole projects, every year, as the drought season begins. We hope to provide permanent wildlife water sources at two more locations before the end of the current financial year, which will bring the total number of Tigers4Ever waterholes completed to seventeen (serving 21 locations). When we complete these 2 waterhole projects, the number of wild tigers benefitting from Tigers4Ever waterholes will increase to at least 105.

100% Match Bonus on New Monthly Donations

GlobalGiving is again adding a 100% bonus in matched funds onto new monthly donations when you donate for at least four months. When you make your 4th online donation to our waterhole project it will automatically qualify for the 100% matched bonus. Imagine if 250 of you read this report and donate just £10 ($13) per month each, we will raise enough funds to provide 2 more waterholes in just 4 months which would be amazing. It would be fantastic if we could do this now so that we can create wildlife waterholes at two more seasonal sites and benefit even more wild tigers and their cubs.

Permanent wildlife waterholes are critical to prevent future tiger-tiger and human-animal conflict, which arise from increased wild tiger numbers, and better cub survival rates. There are currently more tiger cubs (66) in Bandhavgarh than the total number of wild tigers (37) counted in the 2010 Tiger Census, when Tigers4Ever started work there. One waterhole isn’t enough to reduce the conflict caused by wild tigers encroaching on the territories of other tigers and humans, so we need your help to provide at least 2 more waterholes soon, before it is too late for the wild tigers and other wildlife.

Our Challenges Ahead

We need to keep wild tigers safe right now. Our anti-poaching patrols are tripled to address the risk of retaliatory poisoning and poaching. We need your help to complete 2 more waterhole projects soon so we can keep at least 16 more wild tigers including cubs safe.

Your donations will help us to save wild tigers by funding the following:

  • £10 ($13) per month for a year will help to drill 12 metres (39 feet) of bore-well to access underground water;
  • a one-off £20 ($26) gift will help to drill 2 metres (6.5 feet) of bore-well to access underground water;
  • a one-off £40 ($52) gift will help to drill 4 metres (13 feet) of bore-well to access underground water;
  • £90 ($117) can pay a team of workers to prepare a site for a new waterhole for wild tigers;
  • £120 ($169) can cover the cost of labour and preparation of a 1.5 metre wide by 1.5-metre-deep elephant proof moat to protect a solar-pump system;
  • £2000 ($2600) will enable the creation and lining of one larger waterhole.

Every donation, no matter how large or small, helps us increase and protect the tiger population. Thank you on behalf of the wild tigers, which you help us to keep safe; and on behalf of the wider tiger community in Bandhavgarh, which benefits from providing equipment and labour for our waterhole projects. We couldn’t do this without you, thanks to you, the wild tigers can live peacefully and those who live beside them can protect their livelihoods.

All donations are welcome

If you can’t afford to donate perhaps you could become a Tigers4Ever fundraiser, and ask your friends, colleagues and family to donate to your fundraiser to help us keep wild tigers safe.

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