It’s just over a year since Alison Clark, Global VP of Corporate Affairs at Mars Petcare, journeyed to see WWF’s work in the tiger lands of Nepal to mark the launch of our exciting new fundraising partnership with Whiskas.
Since then, Whiskas UK and their customers have contributed more than £500,000 for our global initiative to double the number of tigers in the wild. On 29 July – World Tiger Day – we announced our ambition to work together for tigers in the long-term. It seemed a good moment to invite Alison to reflect back on her experiences in Nepal and the new work and equipment the partnership is already making possible:
Everything Whiskas does is for the love of cats all around the world. Our passion for cats – of all shapes and sizes – is embodied by our partnership with WWF for tigers.
Through our brand we have the power to raise awareness among millions of the challenges endured so unnecessarily by some of the most remarkable species on the planet. Cat owners are aware that these cats desperately need our support, and want to help, which is why, last year, Whiskas partnered with the WWF in the UK, to give them the chance to do so
In March 2013, I was really fortunate to be able to go and see WWF’s tiger projects in Nepal. I travelled with a film and photography crew and journalists from four national UK newspapers. We travelled to the Terai Arc region, on the border of Nepal and India, and spent five inspiring days meeting many people who work tirelessly every day to protect this amazing species.
One year on and as I think back to the inspirational people I met during the visit I am delighted that the WWF teams and local communities are already benefitting thanks to the UK Help Protect a Tiger campaign. It makes it all the more personal having seen the landscape in Nepal and having met just some of the amazing community members and park rangers who are working so hard with WWF’s support to protect tigers.
One of the real highlights for me from my trip was spending time out on patrol with an anti-poaching unit –a group of volunteers from the local community. It was truly motivating to talk to them and hear their stories about how they give up their time to work together to look for illegal activity such as tiger poachers’ traps and snares. During our patrol it was shocking to unearth large traps set in the undergrowth. Seeing the metal jaws snap shut made us all jump and left us in no doubt about the impact it could have on a tiger.
With around 200 tigers now making their homes in the Terai Arc region it’s so important for me to know that community anti-poaching units are out every day patrolling and working to stop the poachers. I’m proud that some of our support has meant that WWF has been able to form and train 17 new community anti-poaching units since last summer.
During the visit I was also lucky to spend time with Ramesh Thapa, the acting chief warden of Bardia National Park and hear directly from him about the challenges he and his team face on a regular basis. We went out on park patrol with him and some of the park protection staff. We were fortunate to be travelling by 4×4 (and elephant!) as the distances are quite large and I did wonder how the patrol staff manages to cover the great distances of a tiger reserve on foot. So it’s really great to know that Whiskas funding has enabled the purchase of 33 bikes to enable more effective long-distance patrolling in the park.
It is not every day we see a tiger. So to catch them on camera is pretty special to. I remember seeing the enthusiasm and pride in our guide’s face when he showed us images of a tiger on a camera from a nearby camera trap. Since my trip I am pleased to know we have funded more cameras to track tigers in this way. WWF and its partners have also set up and completed a training programme for people from 80 local communities looking at different wildlife monitoring techniques.
It’s fantastic to see the donations from Whiskas and our customers already making a real tangible difference to WWF’s vital tiger projects in Nepal. Supporting WWF’s Tiger Alive Initiative’s ambitious goals, by bringing their messages and examples of their work to our audiences, in addition to raising money to care for tigers in their natural habitat, has already been an incredible privilege. We will continue appealing to pet owners, who we know share our passion to champion this incredibly important cause.
It is hard to put into words the passion I feel for tigers since my trip, I feel privileged to have seen the work, alongside those who work every day to protect them. With the help of cat lovers in the UK and now also in Germany, Ireland and Switzerland, the funds we can raise together can do so much to help WWF to give tigers a fighting chance of survival by doubling numbers in the wild by 2022. We shall travel with them to reach this goal.
I can’t wait to go back to visit Nepal one day – with luck, and with such dedicated local people working hard for tigers, I may hopefully achieve my dream of seeing this most majestic of animals in its natural habitat.