The Greatest Adventure: To Save the Tiger
To highlight International Tiger Day, observed annually on July 29, we’re pleased to share Brian Weirum’s update on The Fund for the Tiger and its progress toward the conservation of this very special and critically endangered large cat. — MT Sobek
The MT Sobek Save the Tiger trip has operated 24 departures since 1994. This trip has taken 221 people into the land of the tiger and generated $358,806 towards tiger conservation.
The breakdown: $102,702 direct from MTS; $65,286 from participating clients the year of the trip; and $192,518 from continuing contributions to The Fund for The Tiger, a non-profit tax-exempt public charity established in 1996 as a result of the positive results from the first MTS Save the Tiger departure. 45% of those who have gone on the trip have contributed in years after their participation. Some from time to time, some every year. But a good legacy, nonetheless. As of July 29, 2020, The Fund for The Tiger has put $1,224,756 into the field in India and Nepal in support of tiger conservation. And it all began with the Save the Tiger trip.
We are clearly helping the right people in the right places!!
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, a mobile tiger conservation effort we started with the WPSI in 2011, visits all villages around Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. Through the generosity of David Bonderman, this program now has 7 mobile units canvassing tiger reserves across Central India and have covered an astounding 108,818 km. thus far in 2019. It is clear that the Bondomobile’s Secret Information Reward Scheme, that creates eyes and ears against poachers, ensures that poaching gangs continue to feel the heat.
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 Bardia National Park, NEPAL. 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.
Based on the success of the CBAPU at Dalla Post, Bardia, we have consolidated our efforts at Chitwan National Park, 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. This is excellent news as I have long thought that there is not enough follow-up study and monitoring of dispersal tigers. Earlier this year we received an excellent report showing at least 4 new tigers, two males and two females, have moved into the Chitwan core- good for the genetic diversity of the population.
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 the MT Sobek Save the Tiger trip is March 10, 2021. I hope you will join me.
Brian K. Weirum
Leader, Save the Tiger trip
Chairman, The Fund for The Tiger
Looking for more tiger photos? Check out this gallery featuring more of Brian Weirum’s photography.