Newsletter Number Twenty
The 3rd Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation was held in Delhi April 12-14 attended by all tiger range nations: India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos,Vietnam, China, Russia, Malaysia and Indonesia. This was a follow-up to the highly touted St. Petersburg Tiger Summit of 2011 wherein the stated goal was to double wild tiger populations by the next Year of the Tiger 2022. To great acclaim, worldwide tiger numbers were announced as rising to 3850, a significant increase since the last census. This was wonderful news indeed but in large part due to better census technology and greater areas surveyed, but also underscores the truth that wild tigers, if given protected habitat and left alone, will flourish.
In his inaugural address to the conference, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi told delegates the “conservation of the tiger is not a choice, it is an imperative,” and stressed that a major threat to tigers is the demand for their body parts and derivatives. The conference ended with a resolution calling for the highest levels of government to address demand for tiger body parts, but stopped short of addressing the supply of tiger parts from tiger farms in China and now Vietnam, which feed legal and illegal trade, both domestic and international, and perpetuate demand. Poaching of wild tigers is fueled by a thriving trade in China where tiger parts are used in traditional medicine and skins remain a status symbol. The big players in the game simply do not have the resolve to confront China on this. The Fund for the Tiger stands by its contention that farming tigers perpetuates the myth of the efficacy of tiger parts in traditional medicines thereby stimulating demand for wild tigers. To the true believer, wild will always be preferable. We signed an international petition signed by 24 non-governmental organizations that stated…“It is time for tiger range countries to unite in a commitment to end tiger farming and to end all domestic and international trade in parts and derivatives of tigers from captive facilities.”
Though it was acknowledged that tigers have disappeared from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam there was no meaningful discussion as to how or why this happened. Rather than a discussion on ‘Lessons Learned from the Disappearing Tigers of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam’, Cambodia actually chaired a discussion on the opportunities for re-introducing tigers from India into Cambodia. “The height of folly,” one respected tiger expert from Nepal wrote to me. Tigers are now virtually extinct in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. There is a black hole right in the heart of tiger range countries and an insatiable giant, China, looming to the east. So the great tiger reserves of India and Nepal remain, as they have for 25 years, shopping malls to satisfy a demand thousands of miles away. There is no demand for tiger products in South Asia, home of panthera tigris tigris, the Bengal tiger.
The increase in wild tiger numbers is certainly reason for cautious optimism and hope but not celebration. It’s a sad paradox that while part of the wildlife conservation community is patting itself on the back over the new worldwide tiger numbers, in the land where 70% of the world’s remaining wild tigers live, more tigers have been killed in the first 5 months of 2016 than in all of 2015.
Meanwhile, where the stripes are, this is what The Fund for the Tiger is doing to help:
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INDIA & NEPAL
Poaching and Trade of Wild Tigers
Investigation into Poaching and the Illegal Trade in Wild Tigers has been the signature
campaign of the Wildlife Protection Society of India [WPSI] since its inception and The Fund for The Tiger has helped to fund it since 1996.
I met with Nitin Desai, Director of Operations for Central India for the WPSI, at Bandhavgarh in March. He told me the poaching communities in Central India were quiet at the moment, largely due to two very successful sting operations that the WPSI assisted in. One was the wildlife crime disruptions in Maharashtra in 2013 and the other the Gondai operation I wrote about last year. Sadly this is not the case in the north. Northern India and the Nepal border area are on fire with poaching and wildlife crime activity.
- In October 2015, WPSI launched an intelligence gathering initiative along the Indo-Nepal border. During the last eight months, WPSI has assisted the Indian and Nepalese authorities in a number of important wildlife crime cases: the seizure of 14 tiger skins and 240 kgs. of tiger bones; the seizure of 13 leopard skins and 28 kgs. of leopard bones; and the arrest of 41 suspected wildlife criminals. All of these tiger crime cases were directly related to the demand from China for wild tiger parts. There is no consumption of tiger parts in India or Nepal. Eight arrested in a February 11 case belonged to a traditional hunting nomadic group with links to the wildlife crime syndicate and admitted to killing two tigers in Bardia National Park and a total of 6 tigers in Nepal. Their arrest came due to direct involvement of the WPSI.
- On March 13th the WPSI assisted authorities in the seizure of 4 tiger skins and 125 kgs. of tiger bones (6 tigers) near Corbett Tiger Reserve in India. Four of the dead tigers came from inside Corbett.
- Two Nepalese were arrested by Nepalese Police on May 13th. One admitted to killing a famous tiger at Bardia several years ago and the other was arrested in the town of Nepalgunj and committed suicide in jail before being questioned.
- On May 16th, again with assistance from the WPSI, police arrested 4 people with a tiger skin and bones near Corbett/Rajaji National Park. They were enroute to Tibet via smuggling routes in Nepal.
- Based on ‘informed sources’ in India, a Kathmandu Post story on May 18th cites a disturbing trend. Indian tribal gypsy groups, infamous for poaching endangered animals, were entering Nepal at the behest of the wildlife crime syndicates in the western Terai region with intentions to kill endangered animals. The story goes on to say that 14 tigers have been killed in Nepal since January of 2015.
Clearly the work of the Wildlife Protection Society of India is of more critical importance than ever and deserves all the support it can get. We need your help on this!!
We continue to support the work of Avinash Basker, WPSI’s Chief Legal Counsel and the WPSI team of lawyers prosecuting wildlife crime cases throughout India; the WPSI Wildlife Crime Database; a permanent operative working in and around the Bandhavgarh area assisting in the WPSI Central India investigations; and most of all, that indefatigable hero in the trenches, Nitin Desai.
Operation Bondomobile and the Secret Reward Scheme
As earlier reported, bank on March 15, 2011, The Fund For The Tiger, in partnership with The American Himalayan Foundation, and with the generous support of David Bonderman, launched a new Tiger Conservation Awareness Program in Central India with the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), codenamed Operation Bondomobile. The program uses an audio-visual van, painted with a band of tiger stripes, systematically driven to all the villages fringing the tiger reserves of Bandhavgarh and Kanha, to screen a local language film on tiger conservation and to dialogue with local communities about their wildlife-related problems. The Bondomobile program has proven to be even more successful than anticipated. Apart from creating large-scale awareness of the plight of the tiger in the tiger reserve fringe villages, the Bondomobile has helped address the deeply rooted issue of corruption, while becoming a true ombudsman in airing grievances between the villagers and the Forest Department.
Between January and June 2016, Bondomobile One travelled to villages around Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve and conducted 66 film screenings and meetings attended by approximately 16,200 villagers and 72 Forest Department officials. The van also visited 4 weekly village markets and distributed 850 cards providing information on WPSI’s Secret Information Reward Scheme.
Building on the success of Bondomobile One, there are now two other vans in operation to
include Kanha Tiger Reserve, Tadoba Tiger Reserve, and the Kanha-Pench corridor. One, Bondomobile Two, is also funded by The American Himalayan Foundation and David Bonderman. So far this year, the three vans have conducted an impressive total of 226 village film screenings and meetings, reaching out to an audience of approximately 47,540 villagers and 355 Forest Department officials. The vans have also covered 50 weekly markets and distributed a total of 15,270 Secret Information Reward Scheme cards.
Operation Bondomobile has helped spread awareness in these villages about the WPSI’s Secret Information Reward Scheme wherein rewards are offered for actionable intelligence on wildlife crime. In total there were 45 alerts received by WPSI from January to June 2016 through the Secret Information Reward Scheme.
NEPAL remains clearly in the crosshairs of the smuggling route north from India to China via Tibet, and its southern forests and jungles (Terai) are now under attack from poaching gangs.
The news across the Terai underscores the importance of having the cooperation and support of local communities in the protection of tiger habitat. With that in mind, in May of 2009, The Fund for The Tiger began funding the Community Based Anti-poaching Unit (CBAPU) at Dalla in the southwestern corner of Bardia National Park. Originally 45 youths, later extended to 125, the members of CBAPU organize patrolling and awareness campaigns against poaching in coordination with park staff. This idea has caught fire and is being replicated throughout the greater Bardia landscape. At present there are 82 CBAPU’s with 2154 youths mobilized in various anti-poaching and conservation activities. But of all the CBAPU groups there is only one compound like the one at Dalla. I was hosted at a reception there on March 26th. Last year we committed funds to build a new building for the youth group. It looked fantastic and even had a little internet computer room for them to work in. This group of 60 enthusiastic young people inspired friends with me from my tiger trip to commit to provide more bicycles, back packs and water bottles for their patrolling. We received a report
with thanks, on June 29th from Bardia and Dalla, saying they go on patrols twice a week, 10 youths at a time with one Game Scout and 3-4 Nepal Army personnel.
For several years we have been funding the work of Baburam Mahato, lead camera tracker
and tiger monitor, and his team and their results have been significant, proving that Chitwan National Park and the buffer zones around Meghauli and Madi villages have a healthy tiger population. Our project is a continuation of the Smithsonian tiger-monitoring project started by Chuck McDougal in the 1970’s and now supervised by Dr. Bhim Gurung from Minnesota. We received a wonderful report with ‘tiger selfies’ from Baburam on June 21st. Four of the females have little cubs!!
In 2009, we started the Community Based Anti-Poaching program at Meghauli Village,
adjacent to Chitwan, and it has been positively received. We are currently funding 3 ban heralus, or forest watchers, who assist Baburam in his tiger monitoring work, investigating incidents of human-tiger conflict, do public relations work with the local communities on the importance of the tiger and wildlife conservation in general, and assist Park officials in the arrest of those engaged in illegal activities.
We continue monthly allocations of funds to the Chief Wardens at Chitwan and Bardia for
anti-poaching patrols and information gathering networks.
• • •
The Tigers of Bandhavgarh
Since 1994, I have taken 192 people to see the tigers at Bandhavgarh. The tiger known as Bamera died at Bandhavgarh on May 19th, apparently of natural causes. He was 12 years old. Many of you remember him in his glory days of being a massive and gorgeous tiger. He was born in 2004 to B-2 and the Chakhadara tigress, dispersed for a year or two and returned to main Tala area in 2009. Our group had a good sighting of him from elephant that year. Bamera’s had a rough go the past 2 years. He was a huge tiger, well over 550 pounds, but he had a large son, by the Banbayi tigress, who kept beating up on him for territorial dominance, so he retreated to village terrain and was killing livestock. In early 2014, he walked through the door of a villager’s house. They didn’t have a door. A video of him standing in the doorway, then running across the porch and leaping into the grassland, went viral. Our group saw him from a jeep in March of 2014 and he looked healthy but was limping noticeably. We didn’t see him on the 2015 trip but he was reported to be going in and out of the park in the NW corner near the Khitouli Gate. In November of last year the Forest Department tranquilized him and put him in the enclosure where he died.
There has yet to emerge a dominant male in the core area of Bandhavgarh like Charger, B-2 or Bamera. And no tigress has staked out a permanent territory in the Chakhadara Meadow area like the Chakhadara tigress did for many years and her mother, the famed Sita, did in the 1990s. But we had two memorable tiger sightings in 2016. One of my jeeps came out of a forest area in one of the back meadows and looked back to see that they were being followed by the Suki Patia tigress. She followed them for several hundred yards and got so close they could hear her breathing. And they were the only jeep around. The last morning my jeep came around a corner after hearing some tiger calls and alarm calls from sambar, and there was a young 20-month-old sub-adult lying on the road wapping his tail. After some time he got up and went down into the gorge known as Sita Mandap and drank from the waterhole. That was the first time in my 20 visits that I have ever seen a tiger do that. Overall the tigers continue to do well amidst great turmoil and change. Our naturalist extraordinaire, Jagat, sent me a report in June saying the overall count in the total Bandhavgarh landscape is 61 adult tigers and 14 sub-adults and cubs.
CHUCK McDOUGAL 1930-2016
I first met Chuck, of all places, at the Dhoban Hotel in Biratnagar, Nepal, in 1970. 46 years
ago. He introduced me to the world of the tiger and was the catalyst for my starting the Mountain Travel Sobek Save the Tiger trip in 1994 which led to the formation of The Fund for The Tiger in 1996. My debt of gratitude to Chuck is infinite. During my many years in 1980s and ‘90s, leading treks to Mt. Everest, I would often go down to Chitwan and spend a few days walking the jungle paths tracking tigers with Chuck. One morning I will never forget: I was walking with Chuck and Sukram, arguably the best tiger tracker in Nepal. The morning dew was so heavy it looked like raindrops had fallen on the soft sand. We came to an intersection of two sandy dry streambeds. There were pugmarks (tiger footprints) all over the place and by looking at the tracks, Chuck could tell that 3 different tigers had visited during the night, each wanting to mark its territory and express displeasure at sharing this riverbed junction. There was a fresh scratch mark on a tree, claw marks in the sand on top of one set of pug marks, the fresh scent of urine on the bushes, and even a disturbance in the scat (dung) left by another tiger. As we walked deeper into the jungle, armed with a camera and binoculars, it suddenly dawned on me that we were following pugmarks so fresh that they were on top of the morning dew. Never in my life had I wished for eyes on all four sides of my head.
Although Chuck was considered THE tiger expert of Nepal, his influence reached far into
South Asian tiger habitat. There was a time when most of the naturalists working at the tiger
reserves and tourist lodges across India had been trained by Chuck at Tiger Tops in Nepal. Chuck spent several seasons at Bandhavgarh setting up the Maharaja’s Lodge to pattern after the iconic Tiger Tops in Chitwan. On one of my visits to Bardia with Chuck, an entire contingent of Bhutanese naturalists were camped there learning the tricks of the tiger tracking trade. I think it safe to say that the entire Bhutanese tiger conservation community owes a debt of gratitude to Chuck.
After my Everest trek in 1992, Chuck came running to my room at the Malla Hotel in
Kathmandu. He had just attended a tiger conference in Delhi where the tiger bone crisis first
reared its ugly head. “We need to do something,” he said. “My tigers in Chitwan are disappearing.” Forty percent of the tiger population he was monitoring in Chitwan were gone. Bags of tiger bones were being discovered all across South Asia, from warehouses in Delhi to the remote Simikot airstrip in NW Nepal on the trade route to Tibet and on to China to satisfy the demand for tiger bone remedies in traditional Asian medicines. That conversation was the impetus for me to start the Save the Tiger Trip in 1994, and two years later to establish The Fund for the Tiger. All because of Chuck.
Last March in Kathmandu, I spent 3 hours over dinner with Chuck and his wonderful wife
Margie. He told me he had written a memoir of his life, then launched into a Tibet story: When he was 12, in 1942, he had a geography teacher who told the students to pick names out of a hat of far off places on the map to study. His card came up Tibet. “The perfect dream for a young kid,” he said. He and a buddy wrote a letter to the Dalai Lama saying they were coming to see him. They ran away from home and got as far as Chicago before the cops pulled them off a bus and sent them home. The cops asked them why they were wearing sun helmets and Chuck said, “We’ll need them when we cross the Gobi Desert.” He finished the story with a hearty chuckle saying, “The Dalai Lama never answered my letter.” Chuck started the path less travelled young.
At dinner he was weak and frail, his breathing distressed, he could barely speak in a
whisper, at one point our eyes met and we gave each other a good long deep look as if to say, this is good-bye old friend. “I’m going to hang on as long as I can,” he said. Chuck passed away
peacefully, surrounded by his family in Kathmandu, on May 11.
Rest in peace, my dear old friend.
JAIBAGH- the email address of The Fund For The Tiger, means “long live the tiger” in the
Nepali language. Please check out our website with expanded essays and photographs at:
www.thefundforthetiger.org. Also please notice that we have added a DONATE button on our home page for easier contributions.
• • •
•Thanks to Mountain Travel Sobek for continuing to operate the fundraising Save The Tiger trip in support of The Fund for The Tiger. The trip, which visits Bandhavgarh National Park in India and Bardia National Park in Nepal, is an excellent way for people to travel into the heart of tiger country, see a tiger in the wild, meet those working at ground zero to preserve and protect this magnificent animal, and make a significant contribution to tiger conservation work. I created this trip in 1994 and it has taken 192 people into the land of the tiger and generated $295,000 towards tiger conservation. The next Save The Tiger trip will be March 14-March 28, 2017. Information about this trip and a detailed itinerary, can be found on the MTS website [mtsobek.com].
•A special thank you to the American Himalayan Foundation for its generous assistance over the years and to its Director David Bonderman for launching Operation Bondomobile.
•Happy Anniversary to us!! This August will be 20 years since The Fund for The Tiger was incorporated in the State of California as a non-profit public charity. I am extremely pleased to be able to say that as of June 30, 2016, we have been able to give $923,198.99 to help tiger conservation work in India and Nepal. We have minimal operating expenses and no travel expenses [I’m able to go to India and Nepal every year as trip leader for the MTS Save the Tiger trip]. Major bang for every buck! To those of you who have contributed to this, my heartfelt THANK YOU!
* * *
If you wish to help, please send your contribution to The Fund for The Tiger at P. O. Box 2,
Woodacre, California, 94973 or go to the Donate button on our website. The Fund For The Tiger is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charity registered in the State of California. Your contribution is deductible for tax purposes within the limits of the law.
Brian K. Weirum
The Fund For The Tiger
The Fund For The Tiger would like to thank all those listed below who have made contributions in 2015 and through June of 2016. Your support is greatly appreciated.
Sobek/Save the Tiger trip
The American Himalayan
American Himalayan Foundation
John K. Lyddon Family
Dean Alper/Alper Family
The McDougal Foundation/Scott
Six Flags Discovery
Anne T. Murphy
Tom & Gwen
Bill & Meredith
Mike & Janet Finn
Stuart & Carla
William C. Gordon
Isabel Allende &
Robert J. Waller &
Ernest & Leslie
Anne & Frank Hayden
Mary Lynn Parodi in
honor of Daria, Denali,
Avery, Drew, David,
Denise, Emily & Brian
Wallace Mc Ouat &
Dudley & Mari
Rob & Suzanne Mellor
Laura & Michael
Michael & Vivian
Robert & Michelle Friend
Jim Fayollat & Dasha
Alan & Lynn Charne
Pat Van Buren
Terry & Jenifer
Carol Holt Bedell
Sharon & Jeff Morris
Marcia & Nat
Janet Westin Bicker
Mike & Billie
Phil & Debra White
Kathleen Grant & Tom
Aimee & Harold
Stephen & Britt Thal
Jonathan & Betty
Richard & Joan
Neil & Anne Harper
Bob & Debby Law
Lloyd & Jane Wiborg
Sarah Lichtenstein in
memory of Hilda W. Lichtenstein
Pamela & Michael
Alfred E. Janssen
Susan L. Burrell &
Jim & Janice Borrow
Howard E. Horner
Lama & Susi Allison/Wild India LLC
& Jeri Flinn
& Wenda O’Reilly
Gina & Quintan Park
& Erica Rubenstein
& Mary Nakata
& Lela Larkin
& Linda Forman/Sage Learning Systems
& Phyllis Despain
& Kathleen Robertson
Ann Taylor/CATTARA, LLC
Kay & Jeffrey S. Rudsten Trust
& Katherine Crispo
Torres/Corporate Giving Program
Hoffman & Chris Plona
& Carolyn Egan
Gutierres in honor of Annie & Claire
Community Impact Fund
Valley Community Foundation
& Nancy Harriman
& Sandy Lehman
& Randy Groza
& Priscilla Garrett
& Pam Toevs
& Patricia Bennan
& Dyanne Howley
& Karen Shirley in honor of Zane Wagner
& Andrea Rahberg in honor of Zane Wagner
Robert & Zane Wagner
& Jo Ellen Dobson
& Todd Lijewski
Mancini/The Mancini Company
& Mark Crowe
Yando & John Mordes
Lee Hoffman/The Phoenix Collection