Saturday, September 5, 2009

‘Hero of Ranthambhore’

Hero of Ranthambhore is a program initiated since May 2007, where people in service doing exceptional jobs are honored for their contribution in saving and protecting wildlife in Ranthambhore.

The nominees are chosen from either the ground staff of the Forest department, the police department, the local media or simply individuals doing conservation job in their areas. These people are chosen based on the work accomplished by them towards better conservation of Ranthambhore’s wildlife and tiger’s.

The award is given once every 2 months and includes a citation and a monetary reward of Rs. 5000/-. A small ceremony is organized where the heroes are honored in a public gathering and a chief guest of distinction gives away the award. So far, nine people have been chosen for this honor.. .

1. Mr. R. S. Kala, Forest Ranger

Fateh Singh Rathore awarding Ranger Kala along with Tiger Watch Secretary Ashutosh Mahadevia and a personnel from the US Embassy

With the co-operation of Mr. Kala who was the then Ranger of the Phalodi range of the Sawai Man Singh Sanctuary, Operation Co-operation between Forest Department and Tiger Watch started for anti-poaching work in the area. The team had successes and many wildlife criminals got convicted. This was the starting point of the vigorous anti-poaching drive in Ranthambhore.

2. Mr. Omprakash Sharma, Forester

Omprakash Sharma Being Awarded by John Singhji – Also in the picture – Rajiv Singh, Fateh Singh Rathore and Ashutosh Mahadevia

Mr. Sharma is a forester and works for the flying squad of Ranthambhore National Park. He is responsible for documenting evidence and legal cases against wildlife crimes that have helped in successful prosecution of the criminals.

3. Mr. Girraj Sharma, Journalist- ETV (Rajasthan)

Geoffrey C. Ward Awarding Journalist Girraj Sharma

Mr. Sharma has been earlier responsible for printing more than a 1000 stories in Rajasthan Patrika, a local newspaper. After he has moved to the ETV Rajasthan a news channel, he continues to bring the issues of the wildlife to people strongly. He is one of the few journalists who understand the issues of wildlife and the importance of wildlife protection in Ranthambhore.

4. Mr. Alok Gautam, SHO - Rajasthan Police Department

Geoffrey C. Ward awarding SHO Alok Gautam

Mr. Alok Gautam played an important role in the anti-poaching raid in Gangapur area in July 2007. His timely intervention helped the anti-poaching team in nabbing the criminals before the crime was actually committed. This was the first ever backstop raid that resulted in nabbing criminals before they could find a way to commit the crime.

5. Mr. P. D. Gurjar, Forester

John Singh Awarding forester P. D. Gurjar

Mr. Gurjar has been working for the development of the area around Balas Chowki in Sawai Man Singh sanctuary. He has been persistently working with the villagers to make them more sensitive towards the issues and problems of wildlife conservation. He has recently been taking care of an abandoned leopard cub; he has named ‘Laxmi.’

6. Mr. Sudarshan Sharma, Forest Guard

Eminent Social Worker Manvendra Singh Awarding Sudarshan Sharma

Mr. Sharma received the award in July 2008 for his outstanding work in preventing wildlife crimes. He has been involved in nabbing 18 criminals in different cases of wildlife crime. He was also a part of the team that took the Former President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton around Ranthambhore. His hard work has earned him much appreciation from his seniors and higher authorities.

7. Mr. Jagdish Singh - Ex - Army Personnel

'Green Teacher' - Madhu Bhatnagar presenting award to Jagdish Singh

Jagdish Singh – Ex-army personnel, posted at Khandar range. Last year 36 bull carts filled with forest wood were caught by the Forest Department, the area you can imagine how difficult to work in. He has played an important role in stopping villagers from wood cutting and grazing in that area. Villagers attacked him – broke his hands and head, even after 36 hours he was hospitalized in a very bad condition. Tiger Watch and Prakritik Society facilitated his free treatment. He went back and resumed his duty in the same range.

8. Mr. Rajveer Singh - Forest Guard

Ashutosh Mahadevia honoring Forest Guard Rajveer Singh

Rajveer Singh – Forest guard and an expert in animal rescue and rehabilitation. He is the first to reach the spot whether it is a tranquilized tiger or rattle. Member of the anti-poaching squad, he is the first one to be called for due to his efficiency and sharpness.

9. Mr. Jaagan Singh Choudhary - Police Constable

Journalist and Wildlife filmmaker Jay Mazoomdaar Awarding Jaagan Singh Choudhary

Mr. Jaagan Singh is a police constable, a sportsman, and wrestler – A fit and strong man. Jaagan has been involved with Tiger Watch in the arrest of difficult poachers like Kesra Mogya, Parthya, Neniya Mogya, trader Babloo and in the capture the most important poacher Devisingh Mogya. He keeps a vigil on any poaching activities in the area. He is a brave and fearless Police constable of the department.

This award is committed to encourage people working on the ground-level in the field of wildlife conservation in and around Ranthambhore.

It is important that people working in conservation are motivated to get a long-term commitment towards wildlife protection.

It is very difficult to work on the field conditions and despite all odds the staff and many individuals around the forest fight for the tiger’s survival. It is in due acknowledgement of their efforts that this award was initiated – To honor these True Heroes of Ranthambhore.

The program is supported by two friends of Ranthambhore – Mr. Varun Bery and Mr. Vikram Vohra.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tiger Watch

Tiger Watch

Tiger Watch is a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) registered (Reg No.: F-19858 (Mumbai)) under the Bombay Public Trusts Act. This organization has, as its primary objective, the conservation and protection of wildlife, at Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan. Mr. F. S. Rathore (Field Director, Ranthambhore National Park, Retd.) along with other prominent conservationist have launched this organization.

Ranthambhore is one of the most popular tiger reserves in India, cushioned in and around the Aravali & Vindhya hill ranges in the state of Rajasthan.

‘Project Tiger’ was launched here on April, 1973. The ‘Project Tiger’, as a concept, seeks to sustain the tiger population in its natural habitat by demarking specially constituted ‘Tiger Reserves’ throughout the country. It also meant the prioritization of the objective to free the parks from human exploitation and other biotic disturbances.

Unfortunately, the conflict between people and the tiger always had a devastating impact on every protected habitat of the tiger throughout the country. Ranthambhore was no exception. Being one of the first nine parks to be created as a Tiger Reserve meant that there had to be a habitat management to prevent further damage to the ecosystem and to put in place a repair process, to facilitate recovery of the ecosystem to its natural state.

Historically, Ranthambhore has always been a populated area with several villages situated within the periphery of its ‘Project Tiger’. Implementation of the concepts of the ‘Project Tiger’ meant going into a collision course with the presence of the human population living and sustaining livelihood within its boundaries.

The then park director Fateh Singh Rathore armed with powers to compensate the villagers, managed to move most of the villages outside the park. The park seemed secure, at least for the time being, from the onslaught of human interference with the resident wildlife. He did all that could be done within the capacity of a field director of the forest department.

After the second tiger crisis in the 1990’s, a need was felt to constitute an NGO that could help the forest department in strengthening their forces. Thus, Tiger Watch was born. Since its inception in 1998 Tiger Watch has moved from strength to strength and has proven itself to be a formidable force.

Tiger Watch has always led from the front be it anti-poaching, biodiversity exploration or traditional hunting community “Mogya” rehabilitation programs and set an example for the working of an efficient conservation unit.

It was through Tiger Watch’s efforts that the Mogya community, which mainly responsible for poaching in the region came to be noticed.

The main objectives of Tiger Watch include –

1) Helping in the protection of the wildlife in Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve and its adjoining areas.

2) Forming an efficient anti-poaching network.

3) Helping the Mogya’s find an alternative source of livelihood so that they can be encouraged to reform.

4) Helping the women in the Mogya community become self-sufficient.

5) Educating the children of the Mogya community.

6) Exploring biodiversity in Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve and its surrounding areas.

7) Helping in capacity building of the forest department by providing them with various resources.

8) To continue acting as a pressure group (in alliance with the media) in the area to ensure long-term efforts in protecting the tiger.

The Executive Team:

Mr. John Singh – Chairman

Founder of Jaipur Virasat Foundation and Anokhi an International Brand. John Singh has also promoted traditional Rajasthani Folk music right from Rajasthan villages to world over with his Morchang studio. His passion for saving wildlife is commendable. John Da as he is fondly called has the skill to manage resources optimally and priority based. His whole-hearted support is vital for organization.

Mr. Fateh Singh Rathore - Vice Chairman

The living legend of Ranthambhore. Mr. Fateh Singh who was the former Field Director of Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve made this park world famous for its Tigers. Even today, he has been given the status ofHonorary Warden’ of the park. He is a man many have misunderstood or not desired to understand.

Mr. Ashutosh Mahadevia – Secretary

Ashutosh along with Fateh felt the need for "a private eye" to watch over the tigers in Ranthambhore.

Ashutosh or Ashu Bhai as he is fondly called, hails from the Mafatlal family and runs a textile business, which supplies clothing to the Indian armed forces and the police; responded to this challenge.

The team together; Fateh executes Tiger Watch on ground level, Ashu Bhai is that secretary of the organization who pumps the blood; as in the resources, if TW is some ones it is Ashu Bhai’s baby as he tought of It first. He is mainly a businessman from Mumbai. All the legal aspects are dealt by Ashu Bhai. He is the torchbearer of Tiger Watch.

Ms. Madhu Bhatnagar

A ‘Green teacher’ from Delhi. Madhu has undertaken the task of environment education for three Shri Ram Schools in Delhi. She has inspired and mobilized not just her students but also the parents to get involved in conservation activities. Her work for cleaning the Yamuna, rainwater harvesting and tiger conservation have created a difference in the world of conservation in a unique way. She is also the coordinator of Kids for Tigers, Delhi chapter. With her efforts Tiger Watch could start the much needed Mogya Rehabilitation program.

· Mr. Harsh Javeri - Treasurer

· Mr. Sachin Rai - Joint Secretary

· Mr. Shantanu Kumar

· Mr. Divyabhanu Singh Chavda

· Mr. Rishad Naoroji

· Mr. Ravi Singh

Field Team:

Dharmendra Khandal, Ph. D – Conservation Biologist

With a doctorate in botany, Dharmendra is the country’s foremost spider expert, and a connoisseur of Rajasthan’s flora and fauna. Dharmendra has been working at the ground level for tiger conservation since the past 6 years. A futurist in anti-poaching and wildlife conservation, he has not just helped governmental agencies nab poachers but also established ethics and methodology in anti-poaching strategies. He has religiously taken up the work of rehabilitating poachers’ families.

Ranthambhore Tiger's - An Introduction

Ranthambhore Tiger's - An Introduction. ...

We all have grown up reading about the Sherkhan of the Jungle book – The beautiful black striped golden animal can be easily called the “God of the Jungle’’. ..

A glimpse of the jungle God is all that the tourists ask for when they go to the forest. This beautiful yet mysterious cat is the object of awe and respect for humans and animals alike.

Since ages, the tiger has influenced many writers, thinkers, artists and photographers with its charming mysterious beauty and valour... In mythology tiger has been the vahana (vehicle) of Goddess Durga. The beautiful beast are shown in the cave paintings of prehistoric era, on the seals from the ancient Indus civilization, and many historic objet d'art showing their powerful presence even then... Today it finds its way on the postal stamps, post cards, and various books giving us a peek each time.

Photographers find it to be the ultimate subject for their frame, they travel from world over to take the tiger and its memories home in their cameras. ..

The tiger has existed in various parts of the world, splitting the tiger population to nine different subspecies depending on the habitat, climatic conditions, prey base, etc however of these 3 subspecies engulfed in the sand of time...

In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “When a man wants to murder a tiger, he calls it sport; when the tiger wants to murder him, he calls it ferocity. The distinction between crime and justice is no greater.”

Tigers hunting became a sport during the British era and from nearly 40,000 tigers in the wild in India in 1900, the population shrunk to a few thousands.. . The Maharajas and royals with their foreign guests continued to hunt down the golden gods along with other big cats to get them to a shrinking population... with the whip of hunting and the increased urbanisation the last of the Cheetahs vanished – but the tiger – is a true fighter... It survived. The tiger outlasted the game sport back then and has remained alive even with the modern day hurdles it faces for its survival.

Shikar existed until 1970’s, with the country having many ‘Hunting Reserves’. However with efforts of some prominent conservationists of that time like M. Krishnan, Kailash Sankhala and others the issue of abating tiger population – The First Tiger Crisis – was raised in front of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who took a personal initiative to drive the cause of Saving the tiger population.

In 1972, a body was formed in the leadership of Kailash Sankhala called “Project Tiger” was created to combat the first tiger crisis.

Specially constituted tiger reserves were created with the aim to conserve the tiger population and their habitat.

Looking at the tiger density across the state’s nine tiger reserves were established during the year 1972 – 1973.

They are Manas (Assam), Palamau (Bihar), Similipal (Orissa), Corbett (U.P.), Kanha (M.P.), Melghat (Maharashtra), Bandipur (Karnataka), Ranthambhore (Rajasthan) and Sunderbans (West Bengal). Today there are 37 tiger reserves – coming under the Project Tiger, which is now called as the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

In the history of wildlife conservation – Project Tiger was one of the most successful conservation efforts undertaken ever.

However relying on the past achievement the Indian Government forgot the present day and that was an invitation – The Second Crisis – which befell on the lord of the Jungle…

Fateh Singh Rathore warned the department of decreasing tiger population in Rajasthan reserves, which was ignored. However, the world was staggered when a tiger skin and bones were seized in Ranthambhore in 1993. Why?

The government ordered a census and a melancholic figure of just 2000 tigers came in front. This crisis exposed that the golden god was being used in Chinese medicines, tiger wines and beauty products in addition to being hunted for its skin.

Tiger protection continued and several laws were made against poaching, numerous movements happened to ‘Save the Tiger’... but the catastrophe continued and the tiger faced – The Third Crises – which questioned its survival. ..

In 2004, an NGO named Tiger Watch, which works in Ranthambhore carried out a research activity in the Ranthambhore National Park and came out with an obnoxious discovery of nearly 25 missing tigers!

Around the same time Sariska Tiger Reserve was declared zero tiger situation

All these pushed the government to set up a “Tiger Task Force”. The tiger task force confirmed a figure of 26 tigers in Ranthambhore as compared to the overdrawn figure of 47 tigers.

And this was the third blow to the tiger population.

In the country today, of the 37 tiger reserves just nine reserves are said to be in healthy condition. One of them one is Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve.

Ranthambhore the name comes from two hills Ran and Thanbhor located in the region. Also a legend says that Ranthambhore was once called Ranastambhapura or City of the Pillars of War.

This 392 sq. km. Dry deciduous tiger reserve of Rajasthan is beautifully enclosed by the Banas and Chambal River on two sides. It is a small park but has been the golden gods’ home since centuries.

Many will question as to why Ranthambhore is important for the tigers and why not Tadoba or Kanha?

Although all are significant tiger habitats – Ranthambhore is a unique landscape. Many areas of the Aravalli were populated with tigers but today the big cat resides only in Ranthambhore and it is the hope for the neighbouring sanctuaries of Rajasthan like Keladevi, Sariska and Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary.

An amazing thing is that the mighty cat here lives in blazing 45° Celsius temperatures, on the other end in its family is the Siberian tiger living in freezing minus 45° Celsius. Hence it is – Ecologically a very significant habitat.

This park has limited water sources and sandy terrain so it gets very easy to spot tiger and hence world over tourists prefer this place as one gets to see not just the tiger, but also its behavior like raising the cubs, territorial fights, hunting, relationship with other tigers – which not many parks can boast of... Many of the tigers shown on the television screen are filmed here; they share candid stories of their lives with us...

Other very elusive species are found here as well – like caracal, sloth bear, leopards, desert fox, rusty spotted cat.

Apart from this, Ranthambhore has always been a ‘‘Temple of Conservation’’; many models of conservation have been picked up from here.

Tiger Watch has been working in Ranthambhore since the past 11 years, although Tiger Watch is a Mumbai registered NGO under the Bombay Public Trusts Act ( A Mumbai based businessman and more importantly a wildlife partisan, Ashutosh Mahadevia joined hands to work on this crusade. Since 20 long years, Ashu Bhai has worked religiously for Tiger Conservation in Ranthambhore.

In the initial phases, Tiger Watch worked with the forest department assisting them with multifarious support like organizing various training program for the forest personnel’s to develop their skills, morale, arranging equipments and material support, etc.

Also, to date with pursuit to motivate the guards, Tiger Watch runs a unique “Hero of Ranthambhore” award – where each month a forester or police man with excellence in service towards wildlife is facilitated with a cash award of Rs. 5000/- and a appreciation letter.

Tiger Watch also carries out diverse research programs on the flora and fauna in and around the park. Studies included the mighty cat Tiger to wolves and foxes, plants like P. juliflora a Mexican tree, snakes and reptiles, prey base and various other studies with the dedicated volunteers. In addition, since two years Tiger Watch has conducted a Gharial survey – for the monitoring of the endangered crocodilian species, along the Chambal River.

After the discovery of the missing tiger situation in 2004, Tiger Watch conducted an extensive Anti-poaching campaign. In this, it was revealed that the main culprits for the missing tigers were the Mogya’s.

In the 16th century, King Akbar routed and chased out the Mogya’ warriors out in the forest. Since then the Mogya community got detached from the mainstream society and started living a semi-nomadic life. They ameliorated their art of hunting and resorted to banditry.

Today most Mogya’s live along the periphery of the forests, most living in illiteracy and in marginal existence. However, The Police forces of three states have reported that these are hardcore criminals and their reform is impossible. Their belief is not baseless either; investigations have revealed that – Mogya’s alone have killed at least 20 to 25 tigers in the last three years. This number is more than half of the entire population of Ranthambhore national park. The big poaching mafias easily exploit these poor people to keep the wildlife trade going. Without the Mogya’s it would be square odds to get wildlife trade rolling.

Mogya’s keep moving in search of work, during harvesting they get jobs in the villages to guard crops from the wild animals that may stray out of the park. So ultimately – whether poaching or crop protection from wild animals – Hunting remains their best chance of survival.

Tiger Watch has since its first operation in 2004 got 47 poachers behind bars. Most of them get out on bail due to the wispy laws governing the wildlife.

Understanding that the lack of knowledge, skill, funds and other resources undermine the Mogya’s to resort back and again to poaching Tiger Watch got on ground to rehabilitate the Mogya community. The Mogya’s need to be guided in these tasks to live ethically and have a sustainable livelihood.

Tiger Watch devised a multifaceted rehabilitation program for the Mogya community where in all the age groups were targeted.

But at the same time the philosophy the organization follows is of the ‘Carrot and stick’ policy.

Mogya men were roped in the anti-poaching information network where they provide the inside news and happenings of this impenetrable community. The main reason of leaking out information is simple, most of the times it is the monitory rewards that come with it or the need to even out old scores. Nevertheless today, some of them do understand the importance of a clean and straight life and have come under this program.

Empowering a woman is equal to empowering the entire household... same holds true to the Mogya woman, hence with the efforts of a Green teacher – Madhu Bhatnagar from Delhi’s Shri Ram School – the Handicraft program started and the idea of this project is to enable them to learn new skills and techniques to help them start a commercial venture. Now these ladies weave baskets, make tea coasters and bed sheets, gudhri’s and little trinkets that are sold, give them some profit. The project struggles with lack of resources but is alive and does have bright prospects.

The Mogya ancestors were warriors and great hunters, but being chased out of the mainstream society the next generations were engulfed in poaching and robbery... the raison d'ĂȘtre was illiteracy. Hence, Tiger Watch fabricated the Mogya Children Education Program, 80 Mogya children are on the road to seeing an educated life.

In this program, the Mogya Girls attend a day school close to their houses, in the Hindwad village on the purlieu of Ranthambhore National park. It is not easy to bring them to school as the parents often engage them in grazing goats and agricultural works, therefore a small incentive pay is given to the parent to engage the girl child in the education program.

The Mogya Boys Education Program, which is blessed with generous supporters, has seen its sunny day. The hostel was recently shifted from the Phalaudi village to Sawai Madhopur city, which promises better schooling and living facilities for the odd 40 Mogya boys.

In the Mogya community an average of 20% suffer from ailments like TB, piles, and other severe diseases. Hence in concurrence with Ranthambhore Sevika Hospital (Run by the Prakritik Society), Tiger Watch initiated the Healthcare program where the Mogya families under the umbrella of the rehabilitation program are to get free medical treatment and subsidised medical aid. Of the 500 Mogya families, nearly half have the healthcare card today. Major operations like – amputations, tumor removal and plastic surgeries have been carried out free for some community members.

The mighty dinosaurs that existed in the past... we were told about their gigantic existence... Man made imaginary films on the dinosaurs – as there were no more left for us to see. Similarly, if today not acted upon in near future we might show such fictional films to our kids or grandkids in place of real life documentary!

We have already lost the three subspecies from the tiger family – the Caspian, Javan and Bali Tigers.

As the golden gods gets cramped for space and botched by the greed of humans the last of the 1400 Royal Bengal Tigers wait for help to save them from this vulnerable state...

Do you want to help? Join the Tiger Watch anthem...

By - Divya (