Snares are not discriminatory and dangerous. They are a huge problem for wildlife in developing countries, however, very little is heard about the serious effects they cause.
Not only can snares kill and maim animals that happen to get caught in them, the whole ecology of the ecosystem that snares are found, can be impacted on. By killing or maiming prey species, other top predator populations may decline, changing the structure of a system, resulting in an alternative state where apex predators are no longer found in the ecosystem.
“Like landmines, snares do not discriminate, are virtually undetectable, and can cause irreversible permanent physical damage within a split second,” she explained. “Like landmines, snares are unforgiving death traps that cause pain, suffering, and mutilation. Like landmines, snares are detonated automatically by way of pressure from the animals stepping into or through it,” said Jessica Hartel, the director of the Kibale Snare Removal Program.
Snares are “low cost with high potential benefit,” said Hartel, who added that hunters make the snares out of “recycled motorbike clutch or brake wire, which are cheap and readily available.” However, snares are not just used by people taking bushmeat for subsistence reasons. Bushmeat can fetch a high price at markets and has been shipped across the globe to fuel markets for exotic meats.
In Keyna, the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) has removed 4,996 snares and rescued 49 animals since 2007 alone. According to ANAW, although poaching of rhinos and elephants is tragic, the problem of snares has yet to be highlighted. The snares catch everything from rhinos and elephants to cattle.
In the Central African Republic, where the last 900 mountain gorillas roam, snares are also claiming lives. Chris Whittier, wildlife veterinarian and director of the master’s program in conservation medicine at Cummings School, who has treated six gorillas for various reasons said, “the traps are not intended for the gorillas…….they are stuck with whatever is caught around their hand or foot, and that slowly cuts off the circulation. Those hands and feet either fall off or get infected, and the animals can die unless you can put them under anesthesia to remove the snares.”
Uganda faces the same problem as these other African countries. It’s estimated that one third of Uganda’s chimps suffer from snare wounds.
“Snares are the most insidious of hunting methods currently used in Africa,” said David Mills who is studying African golden cats in Kibale with the Wildlife Conservation Society-Uganda and cat conservation group, Panthera. “Coupled with the breakdown of hunting traditions and taboos and exploding populations of hunters, they have contributed to the collapse of wildlife populations in many parts of Africa.”
It was estimated that there are 15,000 active snares in the Ugandan Kibale National Park, according to researchers. Rangers are risking their lives to remove the snares from the park and make the animals home a safer place.
“In most cases, we are always afraid of [poachers], because some poach using guns while looking for big game like elephants,” Okwilo, a retired ranger, added.
In order to combat snaring for fun, profit or subsistence requires investment in the community and eduction of the local people according to the rangers. “In a region where people live on $1 a month, not everyone can afford to buy meat at the butcher,” said Emily Otali, the Field Director of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project and co-director of the Kibale Snare Removal Programme.
The reality is that there are many complicated socio-economic considerations when trying to combat the problem of snares. To really win the war against illegal poaching of animals, education, investment and beginning to deal with the root of the problem, being poverty, will be the real fight against losing the world’s wildlife.