The Cape of Good Hope SPCA has teamed up with several leading conservation and volunteer organisations to launch a project aimed at providing a coordinated response to snared wildlife incidents, as well as improved training, data collection and awareness about snaring in the Western Cape.
The illegal practice of setting snares to hunt animals is a serious and widespread problem in the Western Cape. A snare is a simple piece of wire, cable, rope, or nylon tied into a noose. The noose is then anchored and positioned in a way to catch animals either by the foot, head, or body
Snares are often set to catch game meat species like small antelope and porcupine, but are indiscriminate and take a huge toll on the entire ecosystem, also impacting predators like caracals and leopards.
Increasing incidents of animals discovered alive in snares prompted the Cape Leopard Trust (CLT) to initiate the development of a coordinated response strategy to ensure quick and efficient reaction to snaring incidents through a network of key partner organisations. Together with CapeNature, Kogelberg Biosphere, Wildlife Forensic Academy and the Cape of Good Hope SPCA, the Cape Leopard Trust has developed the Western Cape Snare Response Plan – the first ever comprehensive snare response plan for the region.
Preliminary research suggests that bushmeat is the main motivation for setting snares in the Western Cape, although the illegal trade in animal parts is also an important factor.
The method is exceedingly wasteful as set snares are often not checked, resulting in captured animals dying and simply rotting away. Caught animals are sometimes able to break the snare off from its anchor, following prolonged struggle to escape, leaving the animal severely hurt or maimed.
On 1 August 2023, this response plan was officially launched as a fundamental component of the overarching ‘Snare Free’ initiative. The launch was held at the Old Mutual Conference Centre at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and attended by policy makers from provincial government and district municipalities, stakeholders from several environmental organisations, nature reserves and conservancies, as well as various media, and project supporters
The SPCA’s Wildlife Department Supervisor Jon Friedman says “we are firm believers that a co-ordinated response will ultimately reduce or have the power to ultimately end illegal snaring. The Snare Free Initiative is just the kind of response we have been asking for, for years, to be able to proactively address, and respond to, incidents of illegal wildlife hunting and poaching within the province, whilst at the same time empowering the public to be a part of the solution. The initiative gives everyone with a telephone the means to report snaring as and when they see it, to alert the correct authorities to the presence of illegal snaring wherever it occurs and to ensure that ensnared animals are able to receive immediate rescue should they be found alive in a snare”.
Cape Leopard Trust Research & Conservation Director Katy Williams said: “The launch is the culmination of twelve months of work by the task team to design and develop Snare Free as an integrated project with its own logo, a dedicated website, an email address, and a hotline phone number.”
“It is our hope that the Snare Free project model will be shared widely, as we envision that this type of initiative will be replicable elsewhere.” she added.
Snare Free consists of several components, including a response plan with a reporting hotline and dedicated support vehicle, and a suite of resources to share with landowners and stakeholders to raise awareness and education. In addition, the initiative aims to streamline reporting and improve training and data collection, alongside a social science research project working with communities to better understand the drivers and potential solutions to snaring.
Helen Turnbull, Cape Leopard Trust CEO commented: “Snare Free is merely a first step in a coordinated effort to investigate and respond to the increasing snaring threat, and a lot of work still lies ahead as the plan evolves. Given the number of snares uncovered in targeted areas, we are certain this is just the tip of the iceberg. This will be a time of learning for the partners, but it is also an exciting opportunity for us to step up as a collective and take positive action.”
The Snare Free project is supported by the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Rolf-Stephan Nussbaum Foundation. The launch event was graciously supported by ORMS Print Room & Framing, Dish Food & Social, Kitchen Gypsies, Mountain Falls Mineral Water, Bos Ice Tea, Leopard’s Leap Wines, Regina Mundi Global Advisors, Down to the Wire and SANBI.