In 2019 Explorers against Extinction wanted to showcase the vital and often unheralded work being done by small, community projects around the world, often run by one or two people, trying to make a real difference to the lives of endangered animals. We chose this project in India, run by the artist Sunita Dhairyam
The Mariamma Charitable Trust (MCT) is based in Southern India, working within a cluster of villages in the eastern part of Bandipur Tiger Reserve. Bandipur is home to some 600 tigers and over 8,000 elephants, making it one of India’s most important reserves. In total it is home to 55 critically endangered and 148 endangered species.
Compensation scheme: A swift, generous and transparent compensation scheme made to livestock owners when wildlife kills cattle, goats or sheep. This discourages retaliation killings using poisoned carcasses.
Disease Control: A birth control programme for dogs and a vaccination programme, in collaboration with the WWF, to prevent the spread of canine distemper and rabies. The canine distemper virus can kill tigers, rabies is a threat to the villagers.
Medical care: A free medical clinic, a daily nurse and a monthly volunteer doctor to help improve healh and physical well being.
Education & Training: Their latest project is to build and equip an educational and training centre wherelocal women will be trained to use hand looms and produce items they can sell. This reduces their dependence on their livestock and gives cash income to improve their lifestyles.
“This is my home. And it is home to a huge variety of wildlife – from a three-metre long tiger to the tiniest butterfly. Each species plays its part in the ecosystem and there is no excuse for killing and cruelty. It wasn’t easy to gain the trust of the villagers and it was a good while before they accepted me. But now they understand that as well as protecting the tigers and the leopards I want to help them, too.”