Newsletters

 
Newsletter Number Twenty Three

Summer 2019
                                   

Dear Friends:

 

In our previous letters I have written about a truly horrific place, the Kings Romans Group in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone of northern Laos where undercover investigators from the Environmental Investigative Agency and its partner Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) documented restaurants with endangered species on their menus from “sauté tiger meat” and bear paws to reptiles and pangolins. One business kept a live python and a bear cub in cages, both available on request. And, of course, that ubiquitous cure for all that ails you, Tiger Bone Wine. This story reared its ugly head again in a May 9th story in the Washington Post by Terrence McCoy wherein he travels across Laos with a Swiss conservationist, Karl Ammann, documenting a thriving tiger farm business. In 2016, Laos officially banned tiger farms and promised to close them down, but there has been no compliance. According to McCoy:

 

 “Nowhere else was the animal’s commodification more complete than in tiger farming, where it is raised, butchered for parts and sold for tens of thousands of dollars. And nowhere else have these farms operated with greater impunity than in Laos, an obscure communist nation whose own wild tigers have nearly all been killed.”

 

Rampant corruption and complicity allows live tigers and tiger parts to flow regularly between Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and the ultimate marketplace, China, in direct contravention of the CITES statute “Tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives.”  Debbie Banks of the EIA emailed “You would be appalled at the ease with which one can find tiger parts and products on WeChat, Zalo and Facebook.” The EIA estimates that there are 8600 tigers now in captive facilities in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and China. Thailand has the only viable population of wild tigers left in Southeast Asia, home to the subspecies, panthera tigris corbetti, that has become a dangerous black hole between South Asia, where over 70% of the world’s wild tigers now roam, and the marketplaces of the Far East.


The darkest shadow is cast from China. On October 29th, 2018, it announced that tiger bone and rhino horn from their farms may now be used legally in medicinal research and traditional medicine. As we wrote last December, this is a recipe for disaster: it perpetuates the myth of the efficacy of tiger parts in traditional medicine; thereby stimulating demand; and to the true believer, wild will always be preferable to farmed. China backed off after intense international pressure to say that the decision was “postponed after study.” This story is not going away. The farming of tigers cannot be relegated to the graveyard of forgotten causes!

 

Meanwhile, where the stripes are, this is what The Fund for The Tiger is doing to help:

INDIA

Since 1996, we have supported the signature campaign of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, the “Investigation into Poaching and Trade of Wild Tigers” program. Critical to this is their Wildlife Crime Database. WPSI uses analysis software to reveal connections between cases of wildlife offences including traffic routes, trade centres, inter-state links, and common modus operandi of wildlife criminals. From January to May, WPSI added a total of 827 cases to their Wildlife Crime Database which included 358 wildlife poaching and seizure cases and records of 55 tiger and 252 leopard deaths.  In addition to the Wildlife Crime Database, the WPSI operates a vast network of informants in the field that provide invaluable information that assists the Forest Department and local authorities in their arrests of wildlife criminals. For example, with assistance and information from the WPSI, enforcement officials  registered two significant wildlife crime cases between January and May 2019. These cases led to the arrest of three alleged wildlife criminals, including a notorious wildlife smuggler. Earlier this year, WPSI provided information to the Central Government Railway Police, who seized 4.53 kg pangolin scales on 15th January 2019 at Jalpaiguri railway station in West Bengal. The authorities arrested another infamous wildlife criminal.

            Sadly, tigers continue to be killed in India due to localized poaching, electrocutions from fencing around farms, etc.  But a real success story remains in Central India where no recent tiger deaths have been connected to the international trade carried out by wildlife crime syndicates.  In March, I met with Nitin Desai, WPSI’s Director of Operations in Central India, who proudly reported that since two major wildlife crime operations, one in Maharashtra in 2013, and the other in the village of Gandai in 2015, there has not been a report of tiger poaching for trade in Central India. This was confirmed in an email dated June 12th, 2019. I stand by it. Neither has there been an alert nor a case registered involving organized tiger poaching gangs in the last 6 years. Thanks to you sir. Would not have been possible without your support.”

OPERATION BONDOMOBILE

 

Launched in 2011, Bondomobile-1 was the pioneer vehicle for WPSI’s very successful tiger conservation awareness program in Central India. This is its ninth year of running. Today the program has seven vans that operate in villages around six key tiger reserves, thanks to the generosity of David Bonderman.  It is our hope that this fleet of tiger conservation vehicles will blanket Central India’s tiger habitat with eyes and ears to protect tigers and to disrupt and harass the poaching gangs.

 

Using customized audio-visual equipment, Bondomobile-1 moves from village to village in the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve landscape, screening wildlife films in some of the most secluded villages surrounding the protected area. The awareness team then follows up the film screenings with discussions, allowing local people to speak up about important wildlife-related issues and problems faced in the region. Mr. Khare, WPSI’s Field Officer who has been associated with Bondomobile-I since its inception, also gives out information on the WPSI Secret Information Reward Scheme, whereby local people can anonymously call a 24-hour helpline to provide intelligence on suspicious illegal wildlife activities in the area. From January to May 2019, the Bondomobile-1 team conducted 45 meetings and awareness programs in villages fringing Bandhavgarh. In addition, the team covered 35 weekly markets while promoting the Secret Information Reward Scheme. We estimate that at least 10,500 people have been reached and sensitized about the importance of tiger conservation and curbing poaching during this five -month period.               

 

WPSI’s Secret Information Reward Scheme has gained remarkable popularity since it was initiated in 2012.  With the purpose of gathering local intelligence on poaching and illegal wildlife trade in Central India, the Scheme has proven to be an effective, efficient and replicable model throughout key tiger landscapes of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. In the first few months of 2019, the Central India team detected 15 different cases of wildlife crimes, which led to the arrest of 50 poachers. Information on these cases was based on inputs provided by villagers and callers under the Reward Scheme. The deterrent value of the reward scheme is immeasurable.

 

It’s been a busy 6 months for the WPSI Field Officer in the Bandhavgarh area who we have been supporting since 2001.  In addition to operating the Bondomobile program, he has supported the Forest Department in investigations of the electrocution of two leopards and one tiger; the transfer of a tiger from Bandhavgarh to Satpura Tiger Reserve; the arrest of eleven people with live pangolins for sale; and the death of 3 cubs by a transient male tiger.

 

We continue to support the Legal Program of the WPSI under Chief Counsel Avinash Basker. As of May 2019, the WPSI advocate in Central India is monitoring more than a hundred wildlife crime cases in the Katni district, a notorious hub for wildlife crime.

   

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The Tigers of Bandhavgarh

 

            Since 1994, I have taken 216 people on 23 Mountain Travel Sobek tiger conservation trips to  Bandhavgarh, India, and Chitwan or Bardia, in Nepal.  For the first time, this year, we were not able to enter the main Tala Zone. Two herds of wild elephants had moved up from Chattisgarh, SE of Bandhavgarh.  They ransacked the Hardiya Gate checkpoint in the SE corner of the park.  Forest Department officials were concerned about the safety of tourist vehicles so the Tala Zone was closed. Jagat wrote to me on June 12th that the elephants were still there, mostly in the Khitouli Zone, where this past March we had two tiger sightings, one of which was the one-eyed tigress called Darha. But we had some memorable sightings in the Maghdi Zone.  On the long drive to the south portion of the park, we came upon some vehicles parked on the road. Off to our right came a large male tiger, the son of Bamera, walking through the forest. This tiger, simply known as Bamera’s Son, is the grandson of B-2, a favorite from years ago. Many of you reading this have had memorable sightings of B-2 or Bamera over the years.

 

We were blessed with watching a classic example of tiger behavior. He crossed the road and laid down in a small pool of water. Then he walked up to a large tree, gave it a good sniff to see if other tigers had been around, then gave it a spray to let others know he was in the area.  We also saw 6 small cubs. Three cubs about a year old were playing off in the trees. All we could see were heads, tails, paws, flapping around and jumping up in the air like a litter of little kittens playing with a ball of yarn. On another occasion, we saw 3 very young cubs, about 3 months old, being rounded up by their mother, Suki Pati. One by one, they could be seen running after their mother through a break in the trees.  The tigers at Bandhavgarh are at maximum capacity and doing well.

                                               

 

NEPAL

           

            With the vision of Dr. Bhim Gurung, and in partnership with Nepal’s National Trust for Nature Conservation, The Fund for The Tiger began funding the Community Based Anti-Poaching Unit (CBAPU) in 2009 at Dalla in the southwestern corner of Bardia National Park. Our effort was based on the premise that successful conservation depends upon the co-operation and participation of local communities around tiger habitat.  This idea met with resounding success and there are now over 2500 young volunteers in 93 groups involved in tiger conservation throughout the Bardia landscape. In March of this year, I visited the CBAPU at Dalla.   There was a nice gathering of about 46 young people.  The groups go out on patrol with the Army twice a week, 3 times a day. In Nepal, the Army is responsible for the security and protection of tiger reserves and national parks. In India, it’s the Forest Department.  My meeting was a resounding success in that I learned that (1) the threat from Indian tribals foraging or poaching into Nepal in this area has lessened (2) community support for these anti-poaching units is now enthusiastically embraced (3 threats to biodiversity has been significantly reduced in the buffer zone near our Dalla post, (4) and best of all, according to Laxmi Joshi of the National Trust for Nature Conservation, our group at Dalla, under the inspired leadership of Hinguwa Tharu, is considered by the National Park to be the role model for effective CPAPU groups. Our conservation efforts are going very well at Bardia!!

 

Based on the success of the CBAPU at Dalla Post, Bardia, in April, 2018, we consolidated our efforts at Chitwan National Park and initiated a CBAPU, based on the Dalla model, at Meghauli village. This is co-ordinated by Dr. Bhim Gurung and run through the Nepal Tiger Trust at Meghauli.  Like Bardia, this idea has caught fire. There are now 118 CBAPU youth members in Meghauli..They are subdivided into 9 CBAPU sub-groups.  In a report from the field on June 16th, “Our focus is to encourage youth to enroll in their local CBAPU group and motivate them to participate in conservation activities including anti-poaching. Our effort has brought them together with other stakeholders such as army, park rangers, game scouts, buffer zone members and Nepal Tiger Trust.”

 

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.  Recent camera results show at least 4 new tigers, two males and two females, have moved into the Chitwan core area. Whether they remain transient or become residents remains to be seen. There has been some attrition over the past year of resident tigers, so if some of these new ones are able to establish territory, it will be good for the genetic diversity of the population.

 

Nepal is doing a great job preserving and protecting its wild tigers. Latest tiger counts continue to rise, and more viable habitat is being created and protected.

                                               

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And finally, I have the utmost respect for National Geographic, the magazine and the organization, but I must take exception to the cover story title of their June 2019 issue, “The Hidden Cost of Wildlife Tourism.” The story depicts bears, tigers, elephants, monkeys and dolphins in various states of degradation and exploitation at tourist attractions.  These are NOT wild animals and this is not wildlife tourism. These are captive animals being exploited for the tourist dollar. It is a story that needs to be told and a practice that deserves condemnation but has nothing to do with animals in the wild.  I lead a tiger conservation trip to the forests and jungles of India and Nepal every year. We sit in our jeeps, quietly and respectfully, watching tigers, elephants, rhinos, the occasional leopard and sloth bear, and countless other wild animals and birds going about their lives in their natural wild habitat. This is wildlife tourism. The story gives responsible wildlife tourism a bad name.

 

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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.

                                               

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GRATITUDES:

 

•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 216 people into the land of the tiger and generated over $346,000 towards tiger conservation.  The next Save The Tiger trip will be March 10-March 24, 2020.  Information about this trip and a detailed itinerary, can be found on the MTS website [mtsobek.com]. If you know anyone who might be interested, send them my way.

 

•A special thank you to the American Himalayan Foundation for its generous assistance over the years and to its Director David Bonderman for funding Operation Bondomobile.

 

•The Fund for The Tiger was incorporated in the State of California as a non-profit public charity in August, 1995.  I am extremely pleased to be able to say that as of June 30, 2019, we have been able to give $1,166,021 to help tiger conservation work in India and Nepal. We are helping the right people working at ground zero, boots on the ground, to preserve and protect the wild tiger in South Asia!  To those of you who have contributed to this, our heartfelt THANK YOU!

 

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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 non-profit, 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.

 

 

The Fund for The Tiger would like to thank all those listed below who have made contributions in 2018 and through June of 2019.  Your support is greatly appreciated.

 

Mountain Travel Sobek/Save the Tiger trip

The American Himalayan Foundation

David Bonderman

Scott McDougal/World Charity Foundation

Dean Alper/Alper Family Foundation

The McDougal Foundation

Ann Nichols

Anne T. Murphy

Tom & Gwen Price/Price Family Foundation

Bill & Meredith Bishop

Erica Stone/Meriama Fund

Mike & Janet Finn

Stuart & Carla Gordon

April Heater Salisbury

Delanie Read

Isabel Allende & Nicolas Frias

William C. Gordon

Ernest & Leslie Zomalt

Linda Weirum

Paul ‘L.P.’ Hansen

Hal Campbell

Joan Edmunds

Karen Uyesugi

Christina Taft

Susan C. Gause

Rick Mariano & Katherine Feinstein

John Clair Miller & Eliza Evett

Regina Yando

Cornelia Schulz

Mary Lynn Parodi in honor of David, Denise, Daria, Denali, Emily, Brian, Avery & Drew

Susette Lyons

Christie Warren in memory of Ang Tshering Sherpa

Wallace Mc Ouat & Claire Young

Barbara Endean

Dudley & Mari Houghton/Austin Community Foundation 

Connie Pratt

Rob & Suzanne Mellor

Chris Bettencourt

Betty Block

Laura Laesecke & Michael Kurinij

Michael & Vivian Bronshvag

Marc Evans

Albert Lyons & Margaret Brandt

Margaret Hoffberger

Robert & Michelle Friend Philanthropic Fund in honor of Brian K. Weirum

Jim Fayollat & Dasha Jamiyan

Joan Wager

Ruth Scott

Alan & Lynn Charne

Pat Van Buren

Lauren Quinn James

David Mourning

Terry & Jenifer Readdick

Carol Holt Bedell

Sharon H. Morris

Lori Ravit

Marcia & Nat Schmelzer

Kay Klumb

Janet Westin Bicker

Dolores M. Hovey Trust

Mike & Billie Strauss

Sheila Blake

Phil & Debra White

Aimee Whitman

Rusty Gutwillig

Stephen & Britt Thal

Diana Cunningham

Neil & Anne Harper

Bob & Debby Law

Anne Hoffman

Sarah Lichtenstein

Alfred E. Janssen

Susan L. Burrell & Don Kerson

Jim & Janice Borrow

Howard E. Horner

Butch Lama & Susi Allison/Wild India LLC

Tom & Jan Perry

John & Jeri Flinn

James & Wenda O’Reilly

Larry Habegger

Sara Gutierres

Alice Treinis

Kathleen & Steve Robertson

Jeff & Nancy Harriman

Tom Harriman

Nick Javaras

Jo Ann Ashmore

Gayan Macher

Gina Park & “Q”

David Buhrman

Gail Billions Thompson

Rodger Young

Tom Masland & Sylvia Bates

Jeanne McGinnis

Juliet Nellis & Adele Grunberg

Frank Moeslin

Ron & Erica Rubenstein

John & Lela Larkin

Rod Sacconaghi

Stephanie Legras

Sharon Leach

Michael & Suchinda Heavener

Albert Fisk

Bruce Encke

Diane White

Bill Fisk & Sue Honey

Karen & J.R. Stockwell

Judy Dawson

Susan Kay & Jeffrey S. Rudsten Trust

Susan Kay & Jeffrey S. Rudsten in memory of David Hale

Richard & Carolyn Egan

Eve Bergeron

Laura Neta-Temple

Steve Beckwith

Robert & Patricia Smith

Hal & Carol Sherley

David Griffin

Karen Gerken

Dorothea Mahan

Jean Anderson

Deborah McKinney

Stacy Basham Wagner

G. David Austin

Jigme & Nima Raptentsetsang

Lawrence E. Fahn

Mary & Jarrett Wyant

Jan Lecklikner

Van Hazewinkel

Gerald & Shela Bordin

Christopher Moore

John & Jo Ellen Dobson

Rachael Vasquez

Zack Fox

N.T. Ricker

Elizabeth Muench

Anne & Frank Hayden

Tom Neuberger & Julie Ann Taylor

Jonathan Moore

Michael & Pamela Mirsky

Andre Dhemecourt

Tamara Goldsmith

Patti Bess

Pete & Debra Amour

Jennifer Baljko

Lori Turner

Diane Simmons

Cynthia Richards

George Stiegler

Reymond Mungues

Brianna Cartwright in honor of Lee Munro & Odin

Ameriprise Financial/The Benevity Community Impact Fund

EBay Foundation/Your Cause

ATT Employee Giving/Your Cause

PGE/Your Cause

Network for Good/Anonymous

Dell Giving/Your Cause

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