Poachers’ Snares: The Race to get there First!

Daily animals are caught in snares in Africa, endangered and threatened species are not spared from the poachers’ traps.

They don’t use tranquilizer darts, hunting rifles or military issue fire power. They don’t make the news like the rhino and elephant poachers do. However, these low key, every day poachers are a huge threat to the survival of many wildlife species.

Wire fencing, old telephone wire, baling wire, you name it and a skilled poacher will use most anything to fashion a snare that will catch an animal by the leg or neck. Snares are laid down or suspended in high traffic areas. Here the unsuspecting wild (or at times domestic) creature gets caught and starts to pull. The snare of course simply gets tighter the more the animal struggles for freedom.

Some animals resort to biting and clawing at the snare until their paws are bleeding and raw and their teeth are broken. Neck and leg wounds grow deeper with every struggle. Some animals linger for days in the heat or cold without food and water until kindly, death takes them.

Each day rangers and scouts, like Maxwell*, patrol game reserves, farms and parks for poachers’ snares and trapped wildlife. Each day they find new snares where they had removed some the very day before. Most days they find some poor buck or predator ensnared, sometimes early enough to save them from the poachers, but frequently not.

On one particular day Maxwell and his companions heard a soft barking interchanged by mournful whining. They followed the sounds and after some scrambling thru the bush found the dog trapped in a snare near an old gold digging. The dog was in rough shape with its caught leg turning green. Maxwell says it had probably been in the snare for close to seven days.

Happily the dog was successfully released and treated.

Most animals are not so lucky. No one really knows how many animals and birds are trapped and killed by snares for bushmeat and illegal trading.  We do know it ranks in the thousands, if not millions each year.

Maxwell and his team alone, found 60 new snares in one month of patrolling their area, and 17 snares with trapped wildlife. Reaching the snares before the poachers is crucial to save animals ranging from Duiker to Bushbuck, Bushpigs to Zebra, and Leopards to Lions.

According to Animal Rights Africa, “the illegal killing of wild animals for meat, the so-called use and trade of ‘bushmeat’, is believed to be one of the greatest direct causes of the decline of wild animals in Africa. The increasing demand for bushmeat is also driving high rates of poaching. According to a CITES (Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna) resolution, poaching and illicit trade in bushmeat constitute the greatest threat to the survival of wildlife species.”

Poachers’ snares are everywhere. People like Maxwell are in a race to get there first, to stop the poachers and to save the wildlife…. Thank you guys!

*Maxwell works with an organization called HEAL (Houtbosloop Environment Action Link) a small organization dedicated to protecting the environment, having removed 12,000 snares in the local area since it began in 2001.

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