Illegal wire snare traps are creating a survival crisis for tigers and other wildlife across Asia. Today, on Global Tiger Day, the conservation groups TRAFFIC and WWF are urging the governments of tiger range countries to crack down on the practice.
Over 30,000 snares were confiscated in Cambodia last year alone, and WWF says it is likely that many more remain undiscovered.
“It’s impossible to know how many snares are being set up every day, and threatening wildlife in these critical habitats,” said Rohit Singh, wildlife law enforcement expert at WWF. “Hundreds of thousands of deadly snares are removed by rangers from Asia’s protected areas annually, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.”
An estimated 3,900 tigers now survive in the wild. This recent revision from the 2010 estimate of 3,200 has come primarily from new surveys in India, Russia, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan, according to WWF.
The number is higher due to new areas being included in the national surveys, improved survey techniques as well as growth in the population from conservation efforts.
This day was designated as Global Tiger Day at the 2010 Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit in Russia. The goal is to call attention to the severe decline of tigers in the wild.
Listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, tigers today inhabit less than six percent of their historic range, with a 42 percent decline since 2006.
In 2006, scientists believed that breeding populations of tigers existed in all 13 tiger range countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.
But they now know that breeding tiger populations occur in just eight of those countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand and Russia.
Although several sites in India and Nepal have reported recent recoveries, population reductions may not be reversible in other areas where tiger habitat itself has been lost, the IUCN says.
And now tigers, elephants, leopards and other wildlife are facing the new danger of wire snare traps.
The snares are easy to make from widely available materials such as bicycle cable wires, and they are quick to set up. As a result, wire snares are deadly traps that are quickly becoming the plague of Asia’s forests.
Driven by the growing illegal wildlife trade and demand for illegal wildlife products across Asia, more and more poachers are using snares to trap wild tigers, elephants, leopards and other wildlife.
As snares can maim or kill any animal that activates them, wild tigers are dealt a double blow, as the prey animals they need to survive and reproduce are reduced also.
“Snares are a commonly-used method of tiger poaching in Asia’s forests. They are especially dangerous because they kill at random – so all manner of wildlife is at risk. It is imperative that tiger range countries scale up their enforcement efforts to curb this crisis,” said TRAFFIC’s Global Communications Co-ordinator Richard Thomas. TRAFFIC is a strategic alliance of WWF and the IUCN.