Newsletters

 
Newsletter Number Twenty Four
 
Summer 2020
                                                             

Dear Friends:

 

 The Fund for The Tiger is now 25 years old and we are extremely gratified that we have been able to be part of the creation of and initial funding of some very hard-hitting and effective tiger conservation efforts in India and Nepal.

 

The Wildlife Protection Society of India was founded by Belinda Wright in 1994 and quickly became the most hard-hitting and effective non-governmental organization working to preserve and protect the endangered tiger. 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.  The WPSI operates a vast network of informants in the field that assists the Forest Department and local authorities in their arrests of wildlife criminals. In March, I met with Nitin Desai, WPSI’s Director of Operations in Central India, who proudly reported that due to 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 involving wildlife crime organizations in Central India in seven years.

            This just in: On June 25th, Nepalese police arrested the notorious wildlife criminal, Kunjok Lama, at his home in Boudha in the Kathmandu Valley. He was wanted by the authorities in a case registered at Langthang National Park in Nepal in September 2005, in which 5 tiger skins, 36 leopard skins, 238 otter skins and 113 kg. of tiger bone were seized. Although Lama has never formally been charged in a case in India, his name has come up in many major wildlife crime investigations, including the seizure of 3 tiger skins, 50 leopard skins in Ghaziabad near Delhi in December of 1999;  4 tiger skins, 74 leopards skins, 18,080 leopard claws, 132 tigers claws and 175 kg. of tiger and leopard bones in Khaga in January of 2000; and a tiger skeleton, tiger canines and tiger claws in Gurgaon near Delhi in July of 2008. The WPSI has been actively involved in all these cases in India, going back to Ghaziabad in 1999. Through their comprehensive Wildlife Crime Database that we have been supporting for years, they are currently collaborating with Interpol and other enforcement agencies in ongoing investigations following the arrest of Kunjok Lama.  Lama has been on Interpol’s radar for almost 15 years. 

 

In 2000, after making 6 visits to Bandhavgarh as leader of the Mountain Travel Sobek’s Save the Tiger trip, I asked Belinda if there was some project we could start to “give back” to Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. She came up with a brilliant idea.  A permanent field officer was hired in 2001 to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the WPSI at Bandhavgarh.  He has since distinguished himself, not only at Bandhavgarh, but across Central India as a major operative in rousting out numerous wildlife criminals. This gentleman also remains of critical importance at Bandhavgarh. Whenever there is an incident, a tiger death or tiger-human conflict, he is called in by the Forest Department to be an investigative witness. His work has been such a success, that the WPSI now has 12 field officers working in and around tiger reserves in India.

 

With the vision of Dr. Bhim Gurung, and in partnership with Nepal’s National Trust for Nature Conservation, The Fund for The Tiger funded the Community Based Anti-Poaching Unit (CBAPU) in 2009 at Dalla in the southwestern corner of Bardia National Park. Its 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. Our band of youths go out on patrols several times a week with the Nepalese Army and do everything from rescuing injured animals to rousting out bands of Indian tribals who have crossed into Nepal bent on mischief. According to 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. In 2018 we started a similar effort at Chitwan National Park in partnership with the Nepal Tiger Trust. Nepal is doing a great job protecting its endangered tigers and rhinos, with the increased involvement of local communities now seen as crucial to this success.


In October of 2010, I received a proposal from Belinda Wright of the WPSI for a tiger awareness conservation scheme to blanket the tiger reserves of Bandhavgarh, Kanha and Pench.  A van with an audio-visual component would visit villages surrounding tiger reserves, emphasizing the importance of tiger conservation; act as ombudsman between villages and the Forest Department; and issue Secret Reward Cards wherein actionable intelligence on wildlife crime would be kept anonymous and garner a  cash reward. I took the idea to the American Himalayan Foundation, and a board member, David Bonderman, liked the idea and agreed to fund it. I named the project Operation Bondomobile in his honor and the first van rolled at Bandhavgarh in 2011. In 2017,  David expressed an interest in doing more to help. I suggested to Belinda that the WPSI “hire and train a field officer for every viable tiger reserve to work with Nitin Desai in Central India and blanket tiger habitats with eyes and ears to protect tigers and disrupt and harass the poaching gangs.” There are now 7 Bondomobiles canvassing the Central Indian tiger landscape, all with a field officer reporting to Nitin Desai, handing out the Secret Reward Scheme cards which have become a major deterrent to wildlife crime. A few years ago, two WPSI informants posing as buyers for tiger products were warned by a gang of poachers not to get involved. “Too dangerous,” they said, “there are eyes and ears everywhere.”  Through the Secret Reward Scheme, there have been 41 arrests in 8 various poaching cases so far in 2020 in Central India. The Bondomobile project has proven to be a innovative and effective tool in tiger conservation.


In March, 2020, Nitin came to visit me at Bandhavgarh in a brand new Bondomobile One. The original van was retired in February with prodigious statistics. Bondo-1 clocked 125,659 kms, conducted 766 village meetings that were attended by 132,040 people and 1,306 Forest Department personnel. Bondo-1 also covered 321 weekly markets and gave out Secret Reward Scheme cards to 67,512 people. In the Bandhavgarh landscape, a total of 91 alerts were received from 2011 to 2020. Of these alerts, 33 were about poaching. The information was passed on to the Forest Department, but 20 of the poaching alerts failed to produce results due to delays or inaction by the authorities. Nevertheless, 13 materialised into cases that led to the arrest of 44 poachers. The remaining 58 alerts pertained to wildlife rescues, crop raiding, cattle attacks, forest theft and mining.

 

And, thanks to Chuck McDougal, my late dear friend and mentor in the world of the tiger, who began monitoring Nepal’s tigers for the Smithsonian in 1977, we have continued to support the Long-Term  Tiger Monitoring project at Chitwan National Park.

 

India and Nepal are now the role models for effective tiger conservation. Nepal hopes to double its tiger population, reaching the goal set by the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit in 2010.  And India’s tiger population is now over 3,000, an increase of 33% since the last tiger census in 2014. In Central India, where Nitin Desai and his gang of field officers and Bondomobiles are operating, tiger numbers in the last census have increased by 71% in Madhya Pradesh, and 64% in Maharashtra. Over 70% of the remaining wild tigers in the world are in India and Nepal.

 

So this is the 25-year legacy of The Fund for The Tiger.  In the world of wildlife conservation, its  efforts may seem humble and modest, but they are going to the right people, at ground zero, boots on the ground, and getting maximum bang for the buck.  It would not have been possible without you, our wonderful supporters over the years. THANK YOU.

Let’s keep the torch aflame where the stripes are.

 

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Genesis

            In 1978 I was blessed with a unique experience. One afternoon I found myself in Chitwan National Park, Nepal, getting off an elephant, walking through 20 ft. high grass, and coming face to face with a 350 pound Bengal tigress. Though she was sedated, her eyes were open, staring at me, and her breathing was loud and heavy. The afternoon was spent helping research scientist David Smith cool her down with water, taking vital measurements, and fitting her with a radio collar for future tracking. We sat on the elephants, late into the night, until she could safely get up and stumble into the forest.

            It was not until 1991 that I realized the power the tiger held on my psyche. I began hearing stories of a new and insidious threat to tiger populations in India and Nepal. For the first time I heard about tigers being killed for their bones. This information came from respected wildlife and conservation experts as well as published reports from conferences in India. Some famous tiger reserves had suffered near catastrophic losses in just two years. Indeed, the great tiger reserves of India and Nepal had become shopping malls to satisfy a market based on ancient Chinese medicinal practices and customs. One of my oldest friends in Nepal and tiger mentor, Chuck McDougal, told me that the tigers he had been monitoring in Chitwan had suffered losses of 40% and we needed to do something.

            In 1993 Chuck and I spent the afternoon with a brave and dedicated Deputy Warden at Chitwan, Tikaram Adhikari. We talked about the poaching threat to the tigers and visited some miscreants in the local jail who been caught in a sting operation trying to sell tiger bones and rhino horns. Tikaram was so inspiring I decided to do something to help.

            The Fund for The Tiger was incorporated in the State of California as a non-profit organization on August 25, 1995.  The Internal Revenue Service granted tax-exempt public charity status on March 5, 1996 and the California State Franchise Tax Board followed with a tax-exempt ruling on May 10, 1996. Contributions are tax deductible within the limits of the law under section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

 

The Tigers of Bandhavgarh

 

            Since 1994, I have taken 221 people on 24 Mountain Travel Sobek tiger conservation trips to  Bandhavgarh, India, and Chitwan or Bardia, in Nepal.  This year was indeed unique as the coronavirus cut our trip short. We were at Bandhavgarh when it became obvious that the world was shutting down. India and Nepal had both cancelled all visas and India was asking foreigners to leave as soon as possible. So we finished the India portion of the trip and came home. That said, we had some excellent tiger sightings. There are several tigresses who had sub-adults in the 2- 2 ½ years range, still hanging around and they will have dispersed by this time next year; and an old friend known as Spotty,has 3 little cubs hiding in the forest. The herds of wild elephants that raised hell with us in 2019 were not evident so our game drives were not restricted. Tigers are doing well at Bandhavgarh and are at maximum capacity.

                                               

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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 221 people into the land of the tiger and generated over $358,000 towards tiger conservation.  World health permitting, the next Save The Tiger trip will be March 10-March 24, 2021.  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, 2020 we have been able to give $1,224,756 to help tiger conservation work in India and Nepal. 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.

 

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The Fund for The Tiger would like to thank all those listed below who have made contributions in 2019 and through June of 2020.  Your support is greatly appreciated.


Mountain Travel Sobek/Save the Tiger trip

The American Himalayan Foundation

David Bonderman

Scott McDougal/World Charity 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 Charitable Fund

April Salisbury Design

Delanie Read

Isabel Allende & Nicolas Frias

William C. Gordon

Ernest & Leslie Zomalt

Paul ‘L.P.’ Hansen

Hal Campbell

Joan Edmunds

Karen Uyesugi

Christina Taft

Rick Mariano & Katherine Feinstein

Regina Yando & John Mordes

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

Susette Lyons

Wallace Mc Ouat & Claire Young 

Barbara Endean

Dudley & Mari Houghton/Austin Community

Foundation 

Connie Pratt

Rob & Suzanne Mellor

Cathy Ann Taylor/CATTARA

Ron & Bobbie Cook

Laura Laesecke & Michael Kurinij

Michael & Vivien Bronshvag

Missy McMinn

Margaret Hoffberger

Robert & Michelle Friend Philanthropic Fund

in honor of Brian Weirum

Jim Fayollat & Dasha Jamiyan

Ruth Scott

Alan & Lynn Charne

Pat Van Buren

Lauren Quinn James

Terry & Jenifer Readdick

Carol Holt Bedell

Sharon H. Morris

Marcia & Nat Schmelzer

Kay Klumb

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

Alfred E. Janssen

Susan L. Burrell & Don Kerson

Jim & Janice Borrow

Butch Lama & Susi Allison/Wild India LLC

Tom & Jan Perry

Warren Perry

James & Wenda O’Reilly

Alice Treinis

Sam Kopel & Sari Scheer Family Fund

Gayan Macher

Gina Park & “Q”

Gail Billions Thompson

Rodger Young

Frank Moeslin

Tom Harriman

Ron & Erica Rubenstein

John & Lela Larkin

Rod Sacconaghi

Larry Despain

Dan Cobb

Stephanie Legras

Sharon Leach

Michael & Suchinda Heavener

Albert Fisk

Bruce Encke

Diane White

Bill Fisk & Sue Honey

Karen & J.R. Stockwell

Susan Kay & Jeffrey S. Rudsten Trust

Michael Hackett Hale in memory of David Hale

Richard & Carolyn Egan

Eve Bergeron

Steve Beckwith

Hal & Carol Sherley

Karen Gerken

Jean Anderson

Stacy Basham Wagner

Spencer & Stacey Sias Fund

Lloyd & Jane Wiborg

Tom Bentley

Jennifer Wolff

George Crispo

Cia & Pat Donahue

Austin Rice

Kay Bush

Jigme & Nima Raptentsetsang

Lawrence E. Fahn

Jarrett  & Mary Wyant

Duke Energy/Jarrett Wyant

Jan Lecklikner

Van Hazewinkel in memory of Eric Westin

Louis Krack

Gerald & Shela Bordin

Rachael Vasquez

N.T. Ricker

Elizabeth Muench

Tom Neuberger

Jonathan Moore

Michael & Pamela Mirsky

Tamara Goldsmith & Randy Zucker

V. Ozanne Ogier

Dale Kennedy

Susan Shumway

Doug Murken

Pam & Dwight Jewson

Gretchen Taylor

Carolyn & Kevin Martin

Jim Sano

Ted Baglin

Karen Shirley

Laren Hockinson

Jonathan & Katie Moore in honor of Sandra Sizer

Rene Kunz

Susan & Todd Lijewski

Bill Krenz

Kathy Grant & Tom Jackson

Anne Marie DeMatteis

The Mancini Company/Jay Mancini

Kevin & Dyanne Howley

Catherine Howard

Aditya Alphonso

Bonnie Smetts

Lavinia Spalding

Doris Constenius

Cheryl Delamere

Evelyn Blackford in honor of Lee Munro & Odin

Reymond Mungues

Brianna Cartwright in honor of Lee Munro & Odin

Ameriprise Financial/The Benevity Community Impact Fund

EBay Foundation/Your Cause

Network for Good/Anonymous

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