Wild tigers face many threats to their survival across the Satpuda landscape of central India, where Born Free’s Living with Tigers programme operates. A serious threat is electrocution.
Farming is a key livelihood for many local communities in Satpuda and because of this, farmers naturally need to protect their crops. Many farmers divert electricity straight from power grids to charge electric fences around their fields. This high voltage, tapped straight from the mains, is designed to stop wild herbivores such as wild boar from eating their crop, but inadvertently leads to the death of other wild animals, including tigers.
According to reports gathered by Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) – which is part of Born Free’s Living with Tigers programme – six tigers died from electrocution in the past year. Two humans and 12 leopards were also killed in this way.
Born Free’s Living with Tigers works to find solutions to human-wildlife conflict across Satpuda, including alternatives to mains-powered electric fencing. One of these alternatives is solar fencing. As the name implies, solar fencing is powered by the sun. If wild animals touch the fencing, they will get a shock, but not a fatal one.
BNHS educates local communities about solar fencing, and through a scheme funded by the Indian government, works with the Forest Department to get it installed.
According to BNHS, thousands of fences have been installed so far, with farmers paying just 25% of installation costs.
BNHS also educates local children about solar fencing through its Mobile Education Unit. The unit visits 80-100 schools around 10 tiger reserves and several sanctuaries to educate children about wildlife conservation. BNHS believes that if children are taught about conflict issues like mains-powered electric fencing, they will encourage their parents to protect their crops in other ways.
Living with Tigers partner Satpuda Foundation has also been investigating alternative ways to protect crops. Wild boar are notorious for destroying crops, so Satpuda Foundation has been testing a small battery-powered device that powers pairs of flashing LED lights. The lights flash randomly and are designed to look like cats eyes, which discourage wild boar from approaching.
Initiatives like these are happening right across Satpuda thanks to Born Free’s Living with Tigers programme. With your help, we can safeguard wild tiger populations and educate more people on the importance of conservation and approaches to co-existence.