AWI Launches International Network to Combat Cruel Traps and Snares

Steel-jaw leghold traps and snares are a global brutality without a meaningful global response. Despite being prohibited in most countries, such devices are widely set in wildlife habitats across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. They remain all too common in North America and Australia as well. 

Despite the suffering and death caused by steel-jaw traps and snares, and the widespread opposition to their continued use, there has been until now no global network intent upon addressing their use in wildlife habitats. To correct this shortcoming, AWI is collaborating with several government wildlife agencies and wildlife charities to create the Partnership Against Cruel Traps and Snares (PACTS). 

Among its first priorities is to address widespread use of the devices by poachers. A series of questions posed during a recent discussion among PACTS members provides a window into the inherent challenges of this task: What is the best way for a park manager to deploy a de-snaring team in a park of 3,000 square miles? Where should the team start? Is it possible to locate poaching “hot spots” in such a large landscape? What sort of specialized training or equipment should team members have? What should the team do if it encounters a live animal in a trap? What should they do if that live animal is an injured and in pain 600-pound tiger?

These and many related questions confront wildlife managers and team leaders on a daily basis around the world, with varied responses. But if a team leader in Senegal’s Niokolo-Koba National Park formulates a very good technique for detecting snares, this same technique might prove useful to a team leader in India’s Kaziranga National Park.

In addition to developing an information bank on best procedures for locating and disarming traps and snares, and sharing this information with all its partners, PACTS will also investigate new technologies that can be applied against these devices in a cost-effective manner. Recent improvements in metal-detection technology for airport security have led to portable devices that might also be useful to teams searching for concealed traps and snares in a national park. Would it be possible to strap one of these portable metal detectors to the belly of a drone and fly the machine at low altitude over suspect habitats? 

The military has developed new technologies to detect “trip-wires” that are used to trigger improvised explosive devices (IEDs). There is hardly any difference between a trip-wire and a snare. Could a device used by the military to detect IED trip-wires in Afghanistan also be used in Kenya’s Tsavo West National Park to protect pangolins from wire snares?

PACTS is already facilitating the exchange of useful information based on first-hand experience and published scientific data. Our goal is to expand and strengthen this global network, and thus help protect wildlife from the excruciating trauma, frantic struggles, and eventual death following capture in these horrific devices.

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