A tigress with cubs in a Tigers4Ever WaterholeNews

Unseasonal Rain, Storms and Dust

It has been a strange but busy time for Tigers4Ever since our last project report. Whilst lots of things have happened in India, we continue to be immensely grateful for your tremendous support for our work. Thank you.

A New Waterhole at Last!

In our February report we reported failure to put a solar-powered pump system in place to fill two waterholes in the heart of the Biruhli buffer forest. Despite the failure, the extra excavation work done in the summer of 2022 to make the large waterhole bigger has paid off. Together with some unseasonal rainfall in the drought season, the enlarged waterhole is managing to provide essential water for wildlife in the area. Good news indeed.

We surveyed other sites in the Panpatha-Biruhli buffer forest and identified several locations where wild tigers were active but natural water sources were already dry. One such site in the Paljha buffer forest proved to be an ideal location for the next Tigers4Ever waterhole. Ground stability and availability of underground water assessed, we commenced work at the new site by early March. After a few days drilling the bore well we successfully accessed the underground stream and installed the pump system.

Wild elephants are active in the area and have caused havoc with other structures so we needed to construct an elephant-proof platform for the solar panels and motor which will deliver water to the surface and the waterhole. Construction of the elephant-proof platform provided 10 days’ work for locals, in addition to those who worked on the borewell drilling and waterhole construction. A high chain-link fence was also constructed around the solar panel site to afford additional protection against elephant attacks. We are also grateful for a grant donation from Fable and Mane/B C Mehta Trust which helped with the construction costs of this waterhole.

The good news about our latest waterhole project at Paljha is that it is providing water for wild tigers at six locations including the main waterhole, which means that Tigers4Ever is now providing water for wild tigers at 18 waterholes in Bandhavgarh. With your kind donations we are fighting the effects of climate change and reducing human-wildlife conflict year round.

Donate to our waterhole project.

Unseasonal Rains

It is virtually unheard of to see rain during Bandhavgarh’s drought season, but 2023 has been a very strange year indeed. Thunderstorms arrived towards the end of March and persisted for four days. Whilst this brought much needed water into the forest it had devastating consequences on the mahua picking season. It was over almost as soon as it begun. Torrential rains battered the mahua trees which shed their flowers, many of which were pelted into the ground or washed away downstream. Only time will tell in respect of the long term consequences of such a short mahua picking season. Low yields meant lower income for the poor rural families who depend on this income each year. On a positive note, the unseasonal rains meant fewer forest fires in March and early April.

Heavy rains fell again in April too, this time for a week. The rains brought cooler temperatures than normal for the time of year, but surprisingly, many snakes became active leading to more frequent reports of snake bites too! Some of the seasonal waterholes now have small puddles within them which those waterholes with a solar pump system had plentiful water levels. The unseasonal rainfall continued into May with aggressive thunderstorms felling trees, cutting off power supplies and making work at waterhole sites and patrolling much more challenging too!

The thunderstorms caused much more havoc than disruption because they brought windier conditions too. After months of drought, soils and leaf litter are parched dry and unseasonal winds increase the amount of dust blowing around the forest too.

Dust Damage

High winds and circulating dust have caused problems at three of our existing solar powered pump systems, including those at the large Mahaman and Sukhi Patiha waterholes. Dust in the motors and loose sand in the bore-wells are causing the waterholes to fill at below optimum rates. As a result, we are prioritising repairs at the three solar powered pump sites over starting work on our next two waterhole projects. Once the repairs are complete at the Sukhi Patiha, Mahaman and Arharia sites; and the five waterholes served have water at optimum levels again, we hope to start work on the new sites.

New Challenges

It will be a race against time to complete both projects prior to the arrival of the monsoon rains; however, we will try our best to get the work done in the limited time available before the heavy rains arrive.

Both of the new waterhole sites will be inaccessible for the drilling equipment once the heavy rainfall arrives, so we hope that work plus the lining of the bore-wells can be completed in time. Our priority will be to complete work at a site in the Kithauli core zone and another in the Dhamokhar buffer forest so as to maximise rainwater harvesting via the soak away systems which help to recharge the underground stream which are vital for the year round water supply.

Every day of rain between now and the start of the monsoon rains makes the task of completing two more waterholes in time so much harder. In the event that monsoon rains scupper our plans, we will seek to complete the work as soon as access is possible after the monsoon rains end.

We Still Want to Harvest Rainwater Too

We have identified at least 5 sites where rainwater harvesting projects would be a year-round water solution and solar powered pump systems won’t work, but for reasons beyond our control we are unable to start work on these. We’re not giving up, and will keep trying to resolve the issues and remove the obstacles which prevent this environmentally sound project from progressing. It is very frustrating, as we have identified the expertise, found suitable sites and have labourers standing by, ready to work when needed. The delays are caused by administrative issues and government policies in respect of access, priorities and land use overall. The problems are not insurmountable; but changing personnel in the Forest Department, leads to further delays.

We won’t give up hope, as there are many areas in the forest without permanent water resources and with no access to underground water which would definitely benefit from rainwater harvesting projects. We believe that rainwater harvesting provides a sustainable long term solution for drought situations, and is much lower maintenance than the solar pump systems, thus leads to less disturbance in the forest 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 are Increasing

Wild elephants in Bandhavgarh continue to the main cause of human-wildlife conflict. A short term solution to the problem doesn’t exist, as many factors need to be addresses concurrently. The wild elephant population continues to grow and they need space, water and food. Years of forest degradation due to illegal logging, clearance for crop growing, forest fires and plundering of scarce forest resources for both human and livestock benefit, means that a sustained project of forest regeneration and management is required to redress the decline.

Before the pandemic, Tigers4Ever put forward an ambitious proposal for tree planting and habitat restoration, which would be implemented over a 4-10 year period so that reforested areas could be self-sustaining. This cannot be done in isolation as more waterholes would also be necessary in the reforested areas to ensure wildlife returns and aids natural seed dispersal. During 2023-2024 we hope to raise sufficient funds to kick-start this project and to plant quick growing vegetation which elephants can eat in areas of denuded forest around potential waterhole sites. In time, the new forest canopy will help to retain natural water in streams and pools within the rehabilitated area, but in similar projects elsewhere it 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, as the tiger population increases more tigers need more space and more food, and reforestation will help. As Bandhavgarh’s wild tiger numbers continue to increase, more space and more prey are vital for the future survival of the growing population. Tigers4Ever waterholes play a vital role in stabilising and increasing prey numbers too. When there is a shortage of water and food, deer and other prey animals don’t breed which means less food for a growing predator population. Tiger-tiger conflict is the result, as they fight for limited available prey. 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 increases the need for better habitat, more water and more prey.

At Least Ten 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. Ten such locations have been identified and work is underway to determine the availability of underground water sources for solar pump systems or sites suitable for future rainwater harvesting projects.

It will be a major challenge to provide 10 more wildlife waterholes at the pace at which they are needed, 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 £15000/$17000 annually to provide a minimum of three small-medium sized waterholes each year. So it will take us at least 3.25 years to provide the ten waterholes needed! We also know that we’re in the middle of a cost of living crisis so fundraising will continue to be hard for some time.

Experience tells us that the best way to reduce the Human-Wildlife conflict is to prevent the prey animals from going to the villages in search of water. Thus we prioritise our permanent wildlife waterhole projects as the drought season begins, each year. We hope to provide permanent wildlife water sources at two more locations before the beginning of the monsoon, which will bring the total number of Tigers4Ever waterholes completed to sixteen in total (serving 19 locations). When prey animals have adequate water and food, the tigers and leopards will have enough food too. When we complete our 17th and 18th waterhole projects, the number of wild tigers benefitting from Tigers4Ever waterholes will increase to at least 90.

100% Match Bonus on New Monthly Donations

This year the GlobalGiving is providing a 100% bonus in matched funds on new monthly donations so long as you donate for at least four months, when your online donations to our waterhole project will qualify for the matched bonus. Imagine if 250 of you wonderful people read this report and donate just £10 ($13) per month each, we will raise enough funds needed towards our next five waterhole projects. With bonus matched funds too we’d be well on the way towards ensuring that wild tigers, their prey and wild elephants have water to drink as the 2023-24 drought season arrives! It would be amazing if during the matched funding campaign we could raise a total of £15000 (US$17000) so that we can create wildlife waterholes at two more seasonal sites and bring the total number of wild tigers benefitting from Tigers4Ever waterholes to around 90 including cubs.

If you feel able to help during 2023, our friends at GlobalGiving are giving us the chance to gain bonus matched funds on new monthly donations all year; so it’s a great time to start a monthly donation now because whatever you donate is sure to have a great impact for wild tigers.

Permanent wildlife waterholes are essential 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 (64) in Bandhavgarh than the total number of wild tigers (37) counted in the Tiger Census (in 2010) when Tigers4Ever started its work there, thus we need to do everything we can to prevent wild tiger deaths due to retaliatory response to human-wildlife conflict. One waterhole is nowhere near enough to reduce the conflict caused by wild tigers encroaching on the territories of other tigers and humans, so we need your help to be able to do at least two more waterholes too, before it is too late for the wild tigers and other wildlife. With your help, we can raise enough money to start work on another two waterholes which will save another 16 wild tigers including cubs.

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. With your help, we can complete two more waterhole projects soon, which will help to keep at least 16 more wild tigers safe.

These are some of the ways your donations will help us to save wild tigers:

  • £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.

Any and all donations are welcome. Donate here.

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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