Torture waits in the jungle for animals, waiting to chew off limbs or inflict a slow, painful death.
Wiew snares or traps don’t care. They don't discern what they catch.
To a poacher, snares are efficient for harvesting wildlife as many can be set, left unattended, and the animals caught can be collected much later.
But this is a brutal “efficiency”, for snares are pure torture, cutting into the legs, or even necks, of animals.
The caught animal, whether it is a totally protected species or a common one, suffers for days. Some animals simply tear off the part of their leg caught in the trap and are left limping for life.
Others eventually die from hunger, thirst, blood loss or an infected wound, especially if the snare is old and rusted.
Earlier this year, the Director-General of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) convened a discussion to highlight how menacing a wire or cable snare is to all wildlife.
Due to the serious losses of wildlife to cable snares, 18 people from non-governmental conservation organisations and representatives from Perhilitan met to discuss ways to address this issue.
Among the ideas considered was a campaign to publicise the horrors of cable snares. To capture the public’s attention, tag lines such as “One snare, one life”, “Snares kill” and “One snare to kill all” were suggested.
Another suggestion in Malay was: “ANTI JERAT: Tanpa Jerat Hidupan Liar Selamat. (ANTI SNARE: Without Snares, Our Wildlife is Safe.)”
It is hoped this will spark an interest among the public about the threat of these silent killers to our wildlife.
Lord of the Snares
In JRR Tolkien’s trilogy, Lord of the Rings, there is indeed a Master Ring, one that was forged in secret with the aim of being the “one ring to rule all”. Snares, especially cable ones used by poachers for the illegal wildlife trade, have the same tenets.
The snares are set in secret, and their purpose is to rule all in the animal kingdom, capturing, injuring or killing all wildlife that use the trails where the snares are set.
In the various wild landscapes in Malaysia such as Belum-Temenggor, Endau-Rompin and Taman Negara, several hundred snares are collected or destroyed each year, ranging from large cables (for tigers and large mammals) to nylon snares (for porcupines and other smaller wildlife).
Even if the animals somehow free themselves from the snare, they could still be fatally hurt, often limping along, struggling to scrounge for food or to escape from its predators.
A single snare does not just kill one animal. For example, a snared pregnant animal could mean death to another life, ie: that of its foetus. Trapping a lactating mother means death to the young animals under her care.
Among the actions agreed on at the meeting were:
– conservation education with targeted companies and communities
– increased anti-poaching patrols and snare removals
– production of posters and videos to educate the general public on the cruelty of cable snares
– letting the public know how they can update the authorities upon seeing snares
– analysing the law to address loopholes in snare usage
– new smart phone apps to combat wildlife traficking (under development).
Everyone can help
What was most interesting was that everyone decided to get involved without asking for additional funds; instead they tried to figure out how to use what resources they had to combat this menace right now.
As pointed out to everyone by the Head of Enforcement for Perhilitan, Salman Saaban, “We have to do this now and we need your help. There is no additional funding but I know you understand the gravity of the situation.”
When Dwarfs, Elves, Ents, Hobbits and Humans came together to save Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings, they were only able to defeat the dark forces by working together.
The division of labour meant that the incorruptible Hobbits carried the Ring, the Elves fought with great precision, nimbleness and athletic ability while the Ents with their height swept away the evil Orcs.
Similarly in Malaysia, the different skill sets of various conservation organisations can help each other. A good part of self-awareness is also knowing what we are not best at, and this allows for collaboration with those that can do the work.
For the combined effort of Perhilitan and all the NGOs, the mission is simple: raise awareness that poaching and the illegal wildlife trade are crimes and that cable snares are common and cruel.
We need a critical mass of Malaysians to help support this cause of reducing cable snares in our forests. We are now starting the journey of a 1,000 miles with this first united step.
Hopefully, by the end of 2018, we can celebrate the resurgence of our wild forest animals.
If you see these torturous traps anywhere, call the Wildlife Department hotline 1-800-88-5151 or the MyCAT hotline 019 356 4194. Dr Melvin T. Gumal is the director of the Malaysia programme at the Wildlife Conservation Society.
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