Wire traps remain wildlife big killer

In the middle of a logging road that flanks Lobeke National Park in the Southeast of Cameroon, a male sitatunga sat on its chest and stomach staring at our approaching vehicle. As we drove closer, it stayed on strangely unruffled. We suspected something was amiss and pulled up 5 metres away.

As we tiptoed towards it, the mammal staggered to its feet, attempted to lurch into the bush but crashed to the ground 4 metres away. Seething around it, we noticed a wire about its left hind leg, blood oozing from it.The sitatunga had succeeded in breaking away from a wire snare but due to pains from its wound could not continue running. The animal died while being rushed to the nearest forest control post.This was one of the many cases of wild animals being caught in wire snares in Southeast Cameroon. Apart from guns, poachers are using wires to trap and kill animals. This is greatly influenced by the availability and affordability of the wires.A study on the circulation of bush meat in Yokadouma, East Province of Cameroon, revealed that more and more hunters use wire snares because “rolls of wire are sold in almost every shop at affordable prices (FCFA 2500). Wire snares, some poachers have confessed, are easy to use and pose very little threat to them (poachers). The snag is that wire traps are easy to use and pose greater threat to all varieties of wildlife species.Studies have revealed that between 26 and 37% of animals that get caught in wire traps end up decaying because some hunters stay for several weeks before checking the traps.In the Southeast of Cameroon, an estimated 15368 wire snares were dismantled between June 2006 and June 2008, excluding numerous wire rolls confiscated from poachers during anti-poaching patrol during the same period.“Wire snares are more dangerous than guns because they kill indiscriminately,” noted Expedit Fouda, Park Assistant for Boumba Bek National Park. “They can bring down elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, etc,” Expedit stated. According to him, 99 percent of hunting within and around Boumba-Bek national park is carried out using wire snares. “In 2006, we dismantled 4133 wire snares while in 2007, the number almost doubled to 6625, including 6 rolls of cable.” Estimates show that 75% of animals are killed by wire snares in the Southeast of Cameroon.“This is a very big problem,” writhed Balla Ottou, Chief of Sector in Charge of Wildlife for Boumba et Ngoko Division. “Most poachers cannot afford the huge sum needed to buy guns, so they go for wires, judging from the number of poachers we have arrested with rolls of wire cables in recent years,” stated Balla.The use of wire snares is illegal going by Cameroon’s forestry law. The law prescribes use of plants to set traps for subsistence hunting in community hunting zones. Such has been the practice for Baka pygmies over the years. But the availability of wire cables has caused a decline in the use of plants, thereby posing even greater threats to wildlife.“Together with WWF, we have embarked on dismantling wire snares in the forest. We are also inventorying dealers in wire cables in Southeast Cameroon to enable us puncture the supply route,” explained Balla.

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