Collateral Damage Part 1 – Snares

By DJ & SdS

An adolescent at Minneriya National Park with a snare injury on his right foreleg.

An adolescent at Minneriya National Park with a snare injury on his right foreleg.

A snare is a hunting device resembling a wire noose. It’s the cheapest and easiest way to trap wild animals. In Sri Lanka, such poached bushmeat consists of wild boar, porcupine and lesser members of the deer family and is mostly locally consumed. Hunting non-protected species (wild boar and porcupine, which are considered as vermin) is not illegal but other species like deer are protected by the local Fauna and Flora Ordinance.

Locals say snare traps are often meant for wild boars. Unfortunately, these traps do not discriminate, they also make victims of species like leopard and elephant. During the last five years, more than ninety percent of the leopard deaths occurred in hill country, Sri Lanka was due to physical injuries of ensnaring. Our observations in Uda Walawe and Minneriya National Parks suggest that it is usually less-experienced juvenile elephants are the victims of snare traps, though adults may sometimes show signs of old wounds. Trunk injuries show the animals are vulnerable even during grazing, not just while walking. Perhaps calves’ natural curiosity makes them especially vulnerable.

Sandhapani, a venerable elder of the Seenuggala group, was first identified 10 years ago not only by her distinctive ears…

...but also by this healed snare injury on her left rear leg.

…but also by this healed snare injury on her left rear leg.

Since 2008, we observed five elephant juveniles with snare wounds in only about one third of Uda Walawe National Park, where we have been continuing our studies. Snares, made of wire or cable, cut deep into the flesh. The wound get infected but if the animal manages to survive, tissue grows over the snare. Extracting a snare takes surgical intervention. As healing takes a long time, post-surgical anti-biotic treatment is needed. Otherwise, infected wound leads to septicaemia and the animal sees an agonising death. If not interfered at early stages, snare wounds might leave permanent defects in the affected limb. Such an example can be seen among orphaned elephants at Elephant Transit home. The whole procedure demands many days of tracking the affected individual. If the affected elephant is lucky and the park staff is committed enough, the animal would receive prompt treatment and then the recovery will be assured. We have been fortunate to witness a few such cases.

Poaching inside national parks is a serious issue. Unarguably, the park staff needs extra support for frequent patrolling rounds. They will require training on detecting wildlife traps and de-snaring techniques. While the local public and school kids should be made aware of the problem and laws pertaining to it, a national dialogue is needed to consider snaring as a serious wildlife crime. Then, naturally, law enforcement becomes key. We as researchers are committed to raising awareness about this problem, and prompting action to address it at local as well as higher levels.

Read part 2 >

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About asianelephant

Promoting understanding of Asian elephant behavior, evidence-based conservation, and the coexistence of people with wildlife and wilderness.
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