Snares for poaching are a real problem

Many National Parks, Private Game Reserves, and Game Farms in Southern Africa are under heavy pressure of snares for poaching. Not only poaching for rhino horn, but also indiscriminate poaching for meat. Rhino horn poaching is mainly organized by internationally acting gangs from certain countries. Indiscriminate poaching for bush meat however is organized regionally and locally.

Why are snares the preferred tool when meat poaching?

For meat poachers, snares have got some important advantages.

  • They kill silently, and there is no danger of getting located or triangulated by sensor stations.
  • The basic material – steel wire – is readily available as spliced-up steel cables, barbed wire- and smooth wire from farm fences.
  • Not many skills or tools are required for setting up snares – within a certain group of poachers, just one person has to be a skilled hunter.
  • Snares can be checked infrequently from observation points off the actual catching sites.
  • They catch very efficiently at so-called ‘hot spots’, where many snares are set up in concentrated areas.
  • A catch of less valuable meat can be left on the spot. After poisoning this catch, lots of hyenas and vultures will be killed within some days. They then cannot serve as indicators for security personnel anymore that other animals were caught.

Personal experience of snaring in a concession area

Letaba Ranch is directly located at the border of Kruger National Park, just over the Letaba River. It is a concession area of the local community and we stayed four nights at Mtomeni Safari Camp. This is a very nice place and was sponsored by the EU. This European organization was and is even sponsoring an Anti-Poaching unit, which only exists on paper. The whole concession is nearly void of wildlife due to poaching.

Conducting a snare sweep

One day we did a ‘snare sweep’. My team and I found and removed 16 snares for poaching in total. We saw one baby elephant and two giraffes snared. Elephant meat is of no value to the locales, so they just leave the baby elephant in the snare. And the giraffe carcasses were cut off above the feet – feet left in the snares. The wire had cut down to the middle of the toe bone.

I spoke to a local person, whose picture can be seen from behind. He told me that the head of the concession signed on an Estate Manager of another tribe. And this Manager is just using people of his tribe for any paid work. The local community therefore has to resort to snaring, so they have at least something to eat. I can’t comment on that, as I have not got a deeper knowledge of the local circumstances. But these were the words of that local person.

Snaring for bushmeat is often covered by corrupt officials

During our walks we came across four non-local persons at the Letaba river, who pretended to do some fishing. Everyone sat on a big cooler box and none of them did want to talk to us. Their leader shouted that they had got fishing licenses. We moved on and found close by and hidden a brand-new 4WD with a number plate from Cape Town. These were obviously poachers who had a piece of paper from the concession allowing them to do ‘fishing’ in the river.

During our whole stay at Letaba Ranch for five days we only saw four Waterbucks directly coming over the Letaba River from Kruger NP. Plus one elephant bull and two buffalo bulls, and all of them were very shy. Nothing else, no Impala, Kudu, Duiker, Steenbuck anything …. nothing.

Lessons learned when removing snares at Letaba Ranch

  • ‘Nature conservation’ is a concept mainly shared by a minority population in South Africa
  • Snares are very well able to clean out all mammals in even a large area of land.

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