Waterholes for Tigers and Elephants Too

Two young tiger cubs play fight in a waterhole in India
Two 6-month old wild tiger cubs fighting in a waterhole

We’ve received some amazing support throughout 2022 for our wild tiger conservation efforts, so I can only say thank you for your continued incredible support, we couldn’t give wild tigers a wild future without you. I know that 2022 has brought significant challenges for many of you, but despite this you’re still helping us to make a real difference for wild tigers in their natural habitat.

More waterholes for the Panpatha Buffer Forest

In my last report we had good news about a new wildlife waterhole in the Dhamokhar Buffer forest, and the late monsoon had enabled us to start work on another waterhole in the Panpatha buffer forest. Shortly after writing the last report, the heavy monsoon rains arrived and halted our efforts at the Panpatha site. However, all was not lost because surveys confirmed that the underground water source is strong enough to support two waterholes in the Panpatha buffer, thus we will be able to provide even more permanent wildlife waterholes where they are needed most. The size of the main waterhole was more than doubled prior to the works being halted and routes have been identified to put underground feeder pipes in elephant proofed channels to ensure both waterhole sites will have a continuous supply of fresh water year round.

In September, the heavy rains usually subside, but this year it wasn’t the case so we had to put our work on hold for longer as we were unable to get the drill in situ due to soil and track instability. Every time we had three dry days, the fourth was a torrential thunderstorm which scuppered our plans! These unseasonal rains have continued into October too, bringing cooler temperatures than usual for this time of year. The Hindu (Indian) festivals of Dussehra and Diwali during October are times when people take time off to be with their families, so our work to complete two more waterholes in the Panpatha Buffer forest is likely to go into November now. The additional rainfall in September and October means that there is still plenty of wildlife water around at the moment, which is good news nonetheless. Once our work in the Panpatha Buffer is complete will bring the total number of wildlife waterholes funded by Tigers4Ever to fourteen.

Rainwater Harvesting Projects

In our last report, we also brought some exciting news about our plans to introduce Rainwater Harvesting projects in dry forest locations where the elevation and/or terrain make them unsuitable for solar-powered borewell pump systems. We’re delighted to say that we have now secured suitable expertise in Rainwater Harvesting projects and geological and hydrological data is currently being obtained so that we can put in Rainwater Harvesting systems at priority locations prior to the onset of the 2023 monsoon rains. This will be a year later than we had hoped, but finding suitable expertise, funding and obtaining the survey data has taken longer than we would have hoped. In the meantime, we will focus our efforts, with your help, on providing permanent wildlife water resources at a fifteenth location, which will be amazing. Thank you.

4 photos: clockwise from top left: Digging an elephant proof trench to bury water pipes which feed the waterholes to prevent damage; wild tigeress with 3 cubs at the Tigers4Ever Sukhi Patiha waterhole; a wild elephant bathing in the Tigers4Ever Rajbehra waterhole; a different wild tigress swims with her 3 cubs in the Tigers4Ever Sukhi Patiha waterhole
Tigers4Ever Waterholes provide Year-Round Water For Tigers, their cubs, Elephants and other wildlife

As Tiger and Elephant Numbers Grow More Waterholes are Needed

Wild elephants continue to bring us new challenges both in protecting solar pump systems and water pipelines at our existing and new waterhole sites. Something which will be an ongoing problem as the wild elephant population grows. We continue to use a variety of solutions to elephant-proof each location as “the one size fits all” solution definitely doesn’t work, in our experience. We know that the wild elephants favour our larger waterholes, but they also cause significant crop damage and increase human-wildlife conflict with their fondness of the rice paddy fields. To reduce this conflict, we must now consider larger waterholes which will accommodate both tigers and elephants in areas where an absence of water is causing conflict to increase. In an ideal situation we would do this in conjunction with our forthcoming forest rehabilitation project as we seek to restore lost forest habitat, but wild elephants are like mammalian bulldozers clearing pathways through the forest as they consume up to 150kg (330lbs) of vegetation each day! Young tree saplings would be no match! We also tailor the elephant-proofing our solar-pump systems to the type of terrain involved as the deep wide moat system is best suited to rocky terrains, and chilli pepper or bee-hive fencing and lemon grass options are suited to more variable locations. As a matter of course, we now bury all of new waterhole feeder pipes at least 1.5 metres (60 inches) beneath the ground to prevent wild elephants from unearthing and damaging them.

The wild elephants are here to stay. Since their arrival from neighbouring Chhattisgarh, where mining activity disrupted their forest home, the herd has almost trebled. In fact, the herd has split into distinct groups which seem to have habitat preferences too. Whilst small groups are happy to forage in dense bamboo, the larger numbers tend to prefer established trees and grasslands.  Whilst we know that the wild elephants continue to benefit from our current 12 wildlife waterholes, they have their preferences and our larger deeper waterholes play a key role in the elephant survival.

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 key role in stabilising prey numbers too. When there is a shortage of water, the deer and other prey animals don’t breed resulting in less food for more predators. Tigers then start to kill each other as they fight over the prey which is around. Tiger cub survival rates are still around 90-95% (much higher than the 50% average for wild tigers), this is good news for the wild tiger population, but also increases the need for better habitat, more water and more prey.

Sixteen More Locations where Waterholes are Needed

Bandhavgarh’s wild tiger population continues to grow against the odds as India has witnessed unprecedented increases in wild tiger poaching over the last two years. To sustain this growth, more permanent wildlife waterholes are needed in areas which can support both prey and predator dispersal. Sixteen such locations have now been identified and work is underway to determine the availability of underground water sources or sites suitable for future rainwater harvesting projects.

We will really have our work cut out to provide 16 more wildlife waterholes at the rate which they are needed. Your fundraising support and donations over the last few years has been amazing for both our anti-poaching patrols, where we quadrupled our patrolling during the monsoon season to address the increased risk (https://goto.gg/28767); and our waterholes project (https://goto.gg/34315). We hope that we can raise sufficient funds (£15000/$17000) each year to be able to provide at least three small-medium sized waterholes annually. It will take us 5 years at that rate to provide the sixteen waterholes needed, but we know that we’re in the middle of a cost of living crisis and fundraising will be hard.

Our experience has shown us that the best way to reduce the Human-Wildlife conflict is to prevent the prey animals from straying towards the villages in search of water. It is for this reason that we prioritise our permanent wildlife waterholes projects as the drought season begins. We have ensured permanent wildlife water sources are available at two more locations within the next month, which will bring the total number of Tigers4Ever waterholes completed in 2022 to seven, and to fourteen in total. When prey animals have adequate water and food, the predators including tigers and leopards will have enough food too. When we complete our 14th waterhole project, the number of wild tigers benefitting from Tigers4Ever waterholes will increase to at least 78. Our next target will be to put a larger waterhole in place where it will help to reduce human-elephant conflict and benefit up to 6 more wild tigers.

Giving Tuesday Bonus Day

This year the GlobalGiving Giving Tuesday Bonus Day matched funding campaign will be on 29 November 2022, when your online donations to our waterhole project will qualify for a share of $1.2million in bonus matched funds on the first US$2500 (£2275) of your donations on the day. The more donations we get, the greater the percentage of matched bonus funds we will receive, thus even the smallest donations can have a huge impact on the day. Imagine if 250 of you wonderful people read this report and donate just £10 ($13) each we will raise one third of the funds needed towards our next waterhole: https://goto.gg/34315. 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 drought season arrives!

Bonus matched funds mean that your larger donations will have an increased impact too, especially at a time when the wild tigers will desperately need your help to survive another drought: https://goto.gg/34315. It would be amazing if during the Giving Tuesday Bonus Day campaign we could raise a total of £7500 (US$8500) so that we can create wildlife waterholes at two 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 the GivingTuesday Campaign (29 November 2022) our friends at GlobalGiving are giving us the chance to gain a bonus matched funds all day; so it’s a great time to donate because whatever you donate online on the day is sure to have a great impact for wild tigers: https://goto.gg/34315.

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 (51) in Bandhavgarh than the total number of wild tigers (37) counted in the Tiger Census (in 2010) when Tigers4Ever started working there, thus we need to do everything we can to prevent wild tiger deaths due to retaliatory response to human-wildlife conflict. One waterhole (our 17th) 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:  https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/water-for-bandhavgarhs-tigers/. With your help, we can raise enough money to start work on another two waterholes which save another 16 wild tigers including cubs.

You Can Help us to Make a Huge Difference Right Now

This year GlobalGiving is pledging a 100% bonus in matched funds on new monthly donations which are continued for at least 4 months. So now really is the time to give monthly, if you can, to make the most of your donation! https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/water-for-bandhavgarhs-tigers/?show=recurring.

Our Challenges Ahead

We need to maximise our efforts 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 wild tigers safe.

Here 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 facilitate the creation and lining of a larger waterhole at one location.

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 are helping 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 https://goto.gg/34315. If you can’t afford to donate perhaps you could become a Tigers4Ever fundraiser, here: https://www.globalgiving.org/dy/v2/fundraisers/start/?fundraiser.projids=34315 and ask your friends, colleagues and family to donate to your fundraiser to help us keep wild tigers safe.

Don’t forget that there are many ways to support our efforts for the wild tigers by shopping online and searching the internet with our partners, take a look here for more details.

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