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You can be kept updated on progress of all the team, as well as our celebrity author, environmental activist, inveterate traveller and conservationist, Stanley Johnson on our Facebook and Twitter.

Tiger Walking

We are winning - From a low of 1400 wild tigers in a few denuded reserves in 2004 - when the TOFTigers campaign was created to help the crisis - we now have over 2400 wild tigers in India and growing numbers in Nepal too.

Ranthambhore Tiger reserve, Rajasthan's most famous park, in 2004 had 11 individual tigers left in the park, and other parks were declared extinct. Today Ranthambhore has 68 wild tigers, and has already repopulated four other reserves, once devoid of tigers. It also makes nearly US$5m pa in park fees from its multitude of visitors - and this is changing fundamentally the way they can protect and save wildlands across South Asia, especially when these governments have so little to spend on saving their own wildlife and biodiversity.

But let’s not forget that by saving forests we are infact saving much more than just their tigers. 830 million people depend on the water that tiger forests release. Forests help to mitigate the very worrying effects of climate change on the subcontinent. If we save tigers we save whole ecosystems, millions of species and a host of other essential nature based services to millions of urban and tribal peoples including medicines, clean air, food - besides our very own wellbeing too.

TOFTigers (now the Nature Stewardship Alliance charity in the UK) believe in responsible nature tourism as a powerful conservation tool. In many tiger reserves and sanctuaries it is offering a whole new funding mechanism for their maintenance and protection, sometimes raising more money than their own governmental budgets. It’s giving new livelihoods and new economic opportunities for once poor rural communities bordering these forests and decreasing rural poverty. We also know that visitors, international or domestic, deter poachers, woodchoppers and illegal grazers and they help brings the spotlight to bare on a host of magnificent and invaluable wildlife and wildlands that few people or governments cared about – even a few years ago.

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Opening up these parks to a host of visitors has also brought exciting nature experiences to thousands of international visitors but also, more importantly, hundreds of thousands of domestic visitors too – creating a new army of passionate and local advocates for conservation and protection.

Tigers are now worth far more alive - than dead - in most of South Asia.(sadly it’s not the case in the rest of the Central and South East Asia)

Guard

For over 14 years TOFTigers has been involved with the Indian government, its forest experts, the Indian and International travel trade communities, their visitors and the local communities in projects, campaigns, training and advice which aim to support and conserve the tiger and other wildlife in many of India's national parks and nature reserves. We encourage better tourism planning for conservation outcomes and community benefits, better training for park managers and guides, run a lodging and Tour Operator certification scheme and advocate policies and legal support to ensure its responsible and beneficial to rural communities and to wildlife conservation.

Bike4Tigers

This eco-friendly bicycle challenge provides the opportunity to visit two of India's best tiger reserves, where tigers have rebounded in the last decade, and bicycle through rural areas and bordering forests of Central India - three days adventurous off-road biking, covering a total of 180kms, with participants getting real insight into the issues and conflicts that face a country with large predators, diminishing forests for them to live in and ever great need for land for an ever expanding rural populations.

Bike4Tigers

RESERVE YOUR PLACE NOW FOR 2019

To discuss our November 2019 dates to discuss the challenge or to reserve your place please contact lorna.mcgregor@toftigers.org or call us in the UK on +44 1963 824514. (UK office timings)

Click here for more information on how you can support the Village Wildlife Guardians Programme

Please note: Royal Expeditions, in New Delhi, India, is the sole agent and outfitter of this trip. They reserve the right to change the route or itinerary for safety reasons should local conditions dictate. This challenge is subject to change at any time, and the costs subject to exchange rate fluctuations.

www.royalexpeditions.com

An off road biking challenge of 180 kms, over 3 full days in the saddle, through the wildlands and villages of the Jungle book, enjoying an awe inspiring adventure and helping us secure the future of the tiger in this wilderness.

Bike4TigersChallenge

Laura Downer was a participant on the first ever 2016 Bike4Tigers Challenge, after recovering from cancer, and this is her blog of the trip.

Soft, golden light caressed the long swaying grasses in the grounds of our lodge as we washed the sleep from our eyes and prepared for an early morning drive through Pench Tiger Reserve.

Monkey Tantalising alarm calls from the symbiotic partnership between deer and monkey signalled the presence of a tiger. Shafts of light pierced the native sal trees casting mottled patterns on the ground as our eyes scanned the forest for a glimpse of the king of the jungle. This day, he eluded us, but the forest was magical experienced from our open topped jeep as we met some of its other inhabitants - jackal and gaur, a vulture perched high on a tree, a rarity now in India – and clusters of jungle babblers, well named for their vocal chatter amongst a host of other birdlife. PeacockThis was just the start of a six day adventure in rural Madhya Pradesh with a mission to bike almost 180 kms in the vital wildlife corridor between Pench and Kanha Tiger Reserves to raise money for TOFTigers Village Wildlife Guardians programme.

Would I be fit enough? Would I keep up with the other 16 fellow travellers embarking on this shared journey? A warm up bike ride on our second afternoon in the mellow temperature of late November was reassuring. Then with emerging comraderie, after two days in the comfort of a jungle lodge, we were off on impressively new mountain bikes along verdant forest tracks in the buffer zone around Pench heading for Kanha.

cycling

Watching Footprints

From shade into sunlight, along sandy tracks and through the occasional stream, we sped along paths with fresh PUG marks and the spoor of tiger evidence of the area’s wild hosts. Were we being watched?

Landscape

Interspersed with the wild landscape was the panorama of rural India which made this such a fascinating journey. Stacks of straw so eloquently captured in paint by impressionist Monet peppered the landscape as though the clock had been turned back over 100 years. Bullocks and cattle ploughed the land and threshed crops. Traditional houses remained in abundance, the warmth and colour of saris so evocative of India along with the crisp plaits, ribbons and immaculate dress of local school children.

Village

Village Life

Lunch, an impressive feast of hot dishes was served with style by our lodge hosts next to a stream. The journey continued, the final leg of the day a thrilling descent along a stony jungle trail – some choosing the support vehicle to admire the scenery in more leisurely comfort - as afternoon stretched into the longer shadows of early evening.

Village Food

As we burst out onto flat ground adjacent to a river, there to greet us was the welcome sight of our destination for the evening, a beautifully located temporary camp complete with walk in tents, hot water, drinks around a camp fire and a feast seated around an elegant table. The first sixty kilometres covered, a massage to sooth any tired muscles and a hot water bottle for the cool night air.

Tourist and Tents

Setting off in the cool, fresh morning air after a hearty breakfast, memorable on the second day of the bike ride were the friendly requests for ‘selfies’ by residents in market towns – an equitable quid pro quo for the images taken by us elsewhere. A relaxing lunch by a forest rest house lulled those warned about taking the afternoon’s impending challenge instead of a place in the support vehicle.

Campfire

A steep rocky, sandy track winding its way up a through the forest – was this a mistake I momentarily asked myself, as gasping for breath, I resorted to pushing my bike up a difficult stretch of terrain? With collective encouragement between three of us left at the back by the fittest of our pack running this gauntlet, we emerged victorious at the top with the satisfaction of knowing we would complete every step of the challenge.

Dinner Time

Day three cycling after a second glorious night camping under a canopy of stars – and the shortest and most relaxing leg of the journey arriving at our destination, Kanha Tiger Reserve, mid afternoon. Afternoon tea at Kipling Camp to meet the Village Wildlife Guardians already funded by TOFTigers around Kanha Tiger Reserve - our mission to help fund more. Afterwards a memorable visit to the river for a turn scrubbing Tara, the elephant made famous by Mark Shand's journey across India on her back.

Elephant Tara

Our memorable parting dinner and night was spent in a wonderful PUG eco-rated lodge but the story was not yet complete. A finale awaited us the next day.

Tiger Spotting

The elusive creative who had spurred our journey finally made his presence known. An evocative roar in the jungle in the distance as we drove through the crisp early morning air in Kanha Tiger Reserve announced his presence – then suddenly he emerged from the forest onto the track, majestic and imposing, as he strolled on his way uninterested in those who had tried to play a small part in helping to secure the future of tigers in the wild.

Kanha National Park

177 kms over three days, 3,282 calories burnt according to my Garmin tracker. Would I do it again? A resounding yes! A truly fascinating and magical experience with the satisfaction of knowing that thanks to my supporters, my efforts raised enough to pay for almost three Village Wildlife Guardians to help prevent poaching and animal-man conflict in this vital wildlife corridor. A celebration also of the power of exercise – positively life affirming on a journey through cancer treatment back to positive health earlier in the year.

On your bike

So as they say - on your bike!

Laura Downer, TOFTigers 2016

For information about the next Bike4Tigers Challenges in autumn 2017 contact lorna.mcgregor@toftigers.org
Click here for more information on how you can support the Village Wildlife Guardians Programme

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Photo Credits: Charles Fraser, Julian Matthews, Emma Barber

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