Staggering number of snares emptying forests in Southeast Asia
9 July 2020 - A snaring crisis is decimating wildlife in Southeast Asia and increasing the risk of zoonotic disease transmission to humans, warns a new report from WWF that estimates for the first time the number of snares in the protected areas of several countries in the region.
An estimated 12.3 million snares threaten wildlife in the protected areas of Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam - a group of countries that are at the centre of the regional snaring crisis, according to the report Silence of the Snares: Southeast Asia’s Snaring Crisis.
“‘Indiscriminately killing and maiming, snares are wiping out the region's wildlife, from tigers and elephants to pangolins and palm civets, and emptying its forests. These species don’t stand a chance unless Southeast Asian governments urgently tackle the snaring crisis,” said Stuart Chapman, Lead of the WWF Tigers Alive Initiative.
These rudimentary traps, often made from wire or cable, increase close contact between humans and wildlife and the likelihood of zoonotic disease spillover. In fact, researchers have identified many of the animals targeted by snaring, including wild pig, palm civets, and pangolins, as among the highest risk for zoonotic disease transmission. Snares indiscriminately kill and maim - animals can sometimes languish for days or weeks before dying from their injuries, and in the rare case an animal escapes, it will often later die from injury or infection.
While Nepal is renowned for its multifaceted approach to park protection, experts warn that snaring is a growing threat. Snares are often retrieved within protected parks by monitoring and patrolling teams — including Community Based Anti Poaching Units (CBAPUs). The issue is likely twofold beyond protected areas, where there is a focus on production forestry and limited protection measures in place.
Evidence retrieved from camera trap surveys in critical corridors have captured the extent of the threat. Given that many forests beyond the protected area system have already been emptied of wildlife, experts warn that snaring could threaten much-needed progress on recovery and restoration efforts. Wildlife presence is limited to only a few corridors — many of which have strong community protection measures in place.
“Camera trap evidence showcases just a fraction of the greater reality. In areas beyond our scope, we can deduce that this issue could be much more widespread. As Nepal faces greater economic uncertainty, the risk of snaring-related wildlife deaths beyond protected areas may rise. The need for increased protection and vigilance in these areas — in addition to protected parks — could not go overstated,” said Shiv Raj Bhatta, Director of Programs at WWF Nepal.
WWF experts urge governments to go beyond simply removing snares by also supplementing protection measures with strengthened legislation and the involvement of indigenuous peoples and local communities as partners to stop this threat. The involvement of communities in monitoring and protection has played a central role in curbing wildlife loss and encouraging forest recovery beyond protected parks — Khata Corridor being one such example.
“Nepal can draw many lessons from WWF’s report. Capturing how unchecked snaring can play a central role in emptying forests of large cat species, especially the tiger, the report is a wake up call for the need to practice extra vigilance beyond protected areas, especially in critical corridors,” Bhatta added.
Tristan Tremschnig, Communications Director, WWF Tigers Alive Initiative (based in Hong Kong), email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Shayasta Tuladhar, Senior Officer - Communications and Education, WWF Nepal