To highlight International Tiger Day, observed annually on July 29, I’m pleased to share my latest update on The Fund for the Tiger and its progress toward the conservation of this very special and critically endangered large cat. 2022 is the Year of the Tiger and an important milestone in the preservation of the species. Plus, check out our next Save the Tiger adventure in March 2023!
Few experiences can compare to the thrill of seeing wild tigers—perhaps the most spectacular of the big cats—in their natural habitat. However, these magnificent predators have been brought to the brink of extinction by illegal poaching and habitat destruction, and only about 4,000 remain in the wild.
In the early 1990s, a tiger poaching crisis hit the conservation community in South Asia, home to the Royal Bengal Tiger. Documented evidence showed that the great tiger reserves of India and Nepal had become, in effect, shopping malls to satisfy a market for traditional medicinal beliefs thousands of miles away, and that Nepal sat clearly on the smuggling route of extinction. To counter this threat, we created the Save the Tiger trip in 1994.
Next year will be our 25th departure of Save the Tiger, which has taken 225 people into the land of the tiger and generated $392,000 towards tiger conservation. The positive results of funds raised on the first two tiger trips inspired me to create The Fund for The Tiger in 1996, a non-profit public charity in California that to date has put $1.4 million into the field in India and Nepal for tiger conservation. And it all began with the Save the Tiger trip.
It is with great pleasure that, since 1996, The Fund for The Tiger has been able to partner with, and support, various hard-hitting and effective programs of The Wildlife Protection Society of India [WPSI] under the dynamic leadership of Belinda Wright. The Investigation into Poaching and Trade of Wild Tigers, their signature campaign, has clearly been paying off. In March, I met with Nitin Desai, WPSI’s Director of Operations in Central India, and he proudly confirmed 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 by organized crime in Central India. This is a remarkable accomplishment.
Operation Bondomobile was launched in 2011 with the generous support of David Bonderman to create anti-poaching tiger conservation awareness in the fringe villages of Kanha and Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserves. Through the program, we also disseminate information about WPSI’s Secret Information Reward Scheme which gives compensation for actionable intelligence on wildlife crimes. The deterrent factor of the Reward Scheme became apparent a few years ago when WPSI operatives, posing a tiger buyers, approached several known poachers near Bandhavgarh Tiger Reservve. “Do not get involved’, they were told ”there are eyes and ears everywhere.”
The big news out of India is the latest census, released on International Tiger Day, July 29, 2019. India’s tiger population is now estimated to be 2,967, with a lower limit of 2,603 tigers and an upper limit of 3,346 tigers. This is a rise of 741 tigers (33%) since the last census in 2014. THE most improved and vibrant tiger area is where Nitin Desai and his WPSI team and Operation Bondomobile are active. An increase of 71% in Madhya Pradesh and 64% in Maharashtra.
In 2009, The Fund for The Tiger began funding the Community Based Anti-Poaching Unit (CBAPU) at Dalla in the southwestern corner of Nepal’s Bardia National Park. This idea has caught fire and is being replicated throughout the greater Bardia landscape. In March of this year, I visited the CBAPU and was told that our team is considered by the National Park to be the role model for effective CPAPU groups. Nepal is a tiger conservation success story, particularly at Bardia, where tiger numbers have increased since 2009 from 18-87.
Based on the success of the CBAPU at Dalla Post, Bardia, we have consolidated our efforts at Chitwan National Park in Nepal and have initiated a CBAPU, based on the Dalla model, at Meghauli village. Dr. Bhim Gurung coordinates this program which run through the Nepal Tiger Trust. There are now 118 members conducting regular patrolling with the Nepal Army and Chitwan National Park rangers.
We continue to support the Long-Term Tiger Monitoring Project started by Chuck McDougal in the 1970’s. In September, our tiger tracking team received a 3-year commission from Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation. The goal is to understand the tigers use of buffer zone habitat as dispersal corridor.
To see a tiger in the wild, moving through their natural habitat, can be a life transforming experience and confirm a commitment to make sure these magnificent creatures do not disappear, forever, from the forests and jungles of Asia.
The beauty and genius of a work of art may be
reconceived, though its first material expression be
destroyed; a vanished harmony may yet again inspire
the composer; but when the last individual of a race of
living things breathes no more, another heaven and
another earth must pass before such a one can be again.
– William Beebe
The next departure of MT Sobek’s Save the Tiger trip is March 14, 2023. Due to jeep permit restrictions at Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, commitments to this trip must be in by early November 2022. I hope you will join me.
Brian K. Weirum
Leader, Save the Tiger trip
Chairman, The Fund for The Tiger
All photographs courtesy of Brian Weirum, taken on recent Save the Tiger departures. Check out this gallery featuring more of Brian Weirum’s wildlife photography.