The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has warned that snaring of animals has become a crisis that poses a serious risk to wildlife in Southeast Asia and could spawn the transmission of zoonotic diseases to humans.
Its July 9 report entitled Silence of the Snares: Southeast Asia’s Snaring Crisis estimates that 12.3 million snares threaten wildlife survival in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
A WWF press release said: “High-risk trade in wildlife threatens ecosystems and risks exposure to zoonotic diseases. About 12.3 million snares threaten wildlife survival in the protected areas of Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam.”
The report said most traps are made from wire or cable, and traps increase the chances of close contact between humans and wildlife and the likelihood of a zoonotic disease spillover.
Researchers have found that many of the animals targeted by snaring, including wild boar, palm civets, and pangolins carry the highest risk of zoonotic disease transmission.
WWF Tigers Alive Initiative head Stuart Chapman said: “Indiscriminately killing and maiming, snares are wiping out the region’s wildlife, regardless of species.
“Snares are destroying wildlife in the region – from big species such as tigers and elephants to pangolins and palm civets – and emptying forests of wildlife.
“Wildlife doesn’t stand a chance unless Southeast Asian governments urgently tackle the snaring crisis.”
The report said the demand in urban areas for wildlife meat and wildlife parts has pushed poachers to catch more wildlife.
Snares impact more than 700 of the region’s terrestrial mammal species. These include some of the region’s most threatened species, such as elephants, tigers, saolas, deer and banteng.
A total of 234,291 snares were collected from five protected areas in Cambodia from 2010 to 2019, the report said.
WWF-Cambodia country director Seng Teak said the snares are the principal threat to tigers in the region and a major contributor to the presumption of their extinction in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
He said the snaring crisis is a major factor leading to population declines of predators in the WWF’s protected areas, including Indochinese leopards, clouded leopards, dholes and the prey on which these animals depend like banteng, muntjac, wild boar, gaur, eld’s deer and sambar deer.
Teak said: “I commend the law enforcement efforts made by the rangers and law enforcement officers from the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
“I am also encouraged by the 2019 Mondulkiri governor’s Circular No 5 which prohibits the purchase, sale, transportation and consumption of wildlife species, which has led to a reduction of bushmeat availability in local markets and restaurants.”
WWF is advocating the implementation of a “One Health” approach linking the health of people and animals.
WWF urged this approach to be included in the decision-making process on wildlife and land-use change and be incorporated into all business and financing decisions, especially related to global health.
“Snaring remains a major concern to wildlife survival. And removing snares from the forest alone is not enough. Strengthened legislation, effective prosecution and increased penalties are crucial to end the trade in wild animals that are major targets for snaring,” Teak said.
Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said the snare was a hidden killer of Cambodian wildlife. He said the removal of all types of snares from protected areas in the first six months of the year totalled 20,179, saving thousands of wildlife.
More than 40,000 snares, he said, were removed from protected areas last year.
“Snares are a threat to some of the most endangered species on the planet. Keeping ahead of the threat of snaring by hunters, rangers from the ministry not only patrol to prevent the destruction of natural resources and deforestation but also search for snares,” Pheaktra said.