Beyond being the animal emblem of ALL TIGERS, the protection of tigers is an integral part of our project. Member of the network 1% for THE PLANET, ALL TIGERS gives 1% of our proceeds to The Poh Kao Association, who fights to preserve wild tigers, and their eco-system, where they are most threatened.
Let us introduce the founder, Véronique Audibert, who talks about her fight for biodiversity.
Véronique Audibert, of the Poh Kao Association
How was your passion for the wild world born?
I am curious about nature. Since I was a little girl I wanted to understand why we are here, and I loved above all the forest and animals... As a child, my best friend was a little bird that lived in a tree trunk! I was going to see it in the forest on Saturdays and Sundays, all day long!
To try to understand the world, I then embarked on film studies, I watched thousands of films to have a global overview of man, his miseries, his anxieties, his life... Then the life-size test: I left alone to the other side of the world, always in more remote areas of civilization... And there... a Tiger! The best meeting of my life! More than 20 years later, he always guides me...
How was this meeting so decisive for you?
The tiger opened the doors to living things, the planet, the mystery of evolution and its perfection... Man has its limits, but nature has none! You never get bored!
And it started in Cambodia?
Back in 1997, I was investigating the traffic of tigers in the northeast of the country. The experience of being in a forest that is absolutely virgin of all human destruction is indescribable... What we feel is very strong: man is not superior to other beings, there are predators like the tiger or the leopard. Putting your footsteps in a tiger's footsteps is a very powerful feeling.
I have done a lot of expeditions with the hunter-gatherers from ethnic minorities who have been living in contact with the tiger ever since. What they taught me is exceptional. While on a mission they asked me to help them. It is for them that I founded Poh Kao in 2006. In their language, it means both rice, together and eat.So much symbolism!
What is Poh Kao's goal?
My belief is that we need to rely on local people to preserve biodiversity. They live in symbiosis with nature. They are the caretakers of the living, they show us what a balanced relationship with the environment is. And the tiger is much more than a symbol: when it disappears, it is the sign of a ravaged eco-system. Animal biodiversity maintains functional ecosystems: the first to suffer from their disappearance is the local people, often very poor. Never forget that 1.2 billion people are dependent on forests for food!
This area in northeastern Cambodia is at the heart of three cross-border national parks with Vietnam and Laos, the largest primary forest area in Southeast Asia. We still protect 24 endangered wildlife species, such as the Nebula Panther-the first feline appeared on Earth 81 million years ago, ancestor of all others! -but also the gaur, the largest bovine in the world, the Dhol, aka the Asian Wild Dog, 5 species of primates, all thanks to the community patrols we have put in place. We have trained the villagers of these ethnic minorities in anti-poaching techniques and in the fight against illegal logging. This model of direct protection of biodiversity and primary forest is hailed by scientists and experts, the work of our patrols is recognized, it is an immense recognition for this people of the forest.
But the tiger is gone...
So dramatic! 20 years ago, there were 800 tigers in the wild in Cambodia. Today all traces are gone.
Unfortunately the demand doesn't stop. As 'traditional remedies' in Asia, and, more and more, as a symbol of social status: All this feeds a traffic orchestrated by mafia organisations which derives large profits from crime linked to wild species. Beyond the tiger, it is all the biodiversity of this country that is collapsing. 60% of the forests are gone! And beyond that, on a global scale, 60% of the wild animal population has disappeared in 40 years, it is a mass extinction of the living by man.
But you continue to follow the trail of the Tiger to India...
I'm not letting go of the tiger! After Cambodia, he took me to India. India is home to the vast majority of wild tigers, but demographic pressure, fragmentation of protected areas, and still corruption and poaching, represent a major threat to the future of the tiger.
In Rajasthan, the local NGO KRAPAVIS has set up a remarkable project that involves local ethnic minorities in the preservation of tigers. They do not receive any support from foreign funds, and local budgets are too small. POH KAO provides them with technical expertise and assistance to raise funds.
Véronique and her local relays
The goal is to double the population of tigers in that region. It is necessary to create ponds, to replant trees, to preserve the biodiversity and thus the food chain of the tiger. We also want to improve the living conditions of local people by creating milk-processing cooperatives for their herds, which they could then sell in local markets.
In this fight you lead, what are the victories?
There were 8 baby tigers this year in our action zone! As I always say, "Never give up"! You have to believe it.
There are constantly great satisfactions that make me roar with glee! Getting funding for projects, for example. Getting field results like the rescue of Wild animals, the destruction of traps, thanks to the incredible work of the Community Rangers. Contributing to the creation of national parks. Seeing the great results obtained by local NGOs that protect wildlife, animals in general. Also seeing images of compassion between man and animal.
And what should we fight against?
I stick out me claws against the destroyers of the Wild World, the exploiters of the living, all ignorant, arrogant, greedy and selfish! The world does not need to be saved, we just need to stop destroying it now.
But the main challenge is the lack of means: biodiversity is not taken for a major international issue, the funds raised are totally inadequate. On the ground, we have data, knowledge, skills, but funding is lacking! Large organizations capture the bulk of the endowment funds, but that money does not go where it is needed. The survival of the field projects with real efficiency is constantly threatened.
I am often asked "Is it too late to save the planet?" But the planet does not need us, it is us who need it! At this rate, it is our own extinction that we are programming, but by then, how many species will have completely disappeared because of us, and what right have we assumed to do that? We must question our morals, reconsider our place among the other living. I hope that the coming generations will be more aware of the stakes.
What's your "jungle", where do you feel at home?
My playground, where I feel in my place: Cambodia, Rajasthan, wherever the footprint of man is in perfect balance, where biodiversity can express itself fully... It's so soothing!
And is that where you feel 'Queen of the Jungle '?
When I'm in the jungle, absolutely! When you walk with the team, you cross the wildest dense forest, you go back to the villages, with the Tigers not very far, the Bears, the Panthers. That's there that I love! I love it!
What is the place of other women in this fight?
A woman was the most important person in my life, my mother, she always supported me in my not so orthodox life choices! And in general, women count in this struggle to preserve biodiversity. I am thinking of Suwanna Gauntlet of Wildlife Alliance Cambodia, Rosie Cooney of SULI IUCN, Amy Mailing of Wildlife Alliance Cambodia. They are extraordinary women who do not put themselves first, they just do their work on the ground.
Nocturnal photo of tigers taken by local partners of Poh Kao
What are the ultimate Tigers for you?
I think of Diane Fossey, her life devoted to gorillas... And to all those who work to spread knowledge, to defend the most fragile, the voiceless – animals and wildlife are the voiceless by excellence. Gandhi, Einstein, Newton, have all questioned their conscience in relation to these more fragile animals, and what we are doing to them. Today Leonardo DiCaprio, and many anonymous like Nick Marx in Cambodia, or Mrs. Delia Bremont, President of the Foundation together in France who is a constant support for Poh Kao.
Natural, vegan, cruelty-free: Is that important to you?
It's more than important, it's part of my DNA today! It is a way for everyone to let go of a little pressure, violence, cruelty to our brothers the animals. I am trying to be the voice for the "voiceless", especially those who live in areas where Poh Kao is involved.
Does lipstick it belong in a life of fighting?
It's important to add a touch of color to reality. I wear it almost every day, except for work appointments! It is the symbol of fantasy, a futile necessity to paint a world with a brighter smile.
Your favorite lipstick color?
Orange ! Like the tiger!
Your journey, your commitment, your projects... That's impressive. You are our Supreme Tiger! You have to choose a mantra!
I choose one: MERCY TIGER!