19 June 2018
Snaring is a common and inexpensive method used to catch wildlife, and it is as cruel as it is effective.
In 2016, rangers removed a staggering 664 snares from Limpopo National Park. These snares were strategically placed by poachers, often around water points, aiming to capture animals. Some of the animals are caught for meat, but some are killed for a second and much more sinister and devastating use. The practice involves the application of an easily accessible, over the counter pesticide to a carcass, the size of which directly relates to the number of animals that will be affected. Sometimes it is a small antelope and sometimes an elephant. The main target is usually predators, be it lion, hyena, jackal or leopard. The spoils? Bones and body parts sold for export to the east or used for traditional practices.
Limpopo National Park lion targeted
Lion poisoning has been steadily increasing in Limpopo National Park. Peter Leitner, a Peace Parks Foundation Project Manager for the park says, “It is of grave concern to us. Over the last year, there have been seven lions poisoned and eight incidences were recorded where poisoned bait was found in the park. In the communal land south of park, two lions were poisoned when they fed on a cow that was laced with poison. In May, two lion cubs, a male and female, were found poisoned close to a river in the park.
Realising the potential impact of this threat, combined with other poaching methods, Peace Parks Foundation, in partnership with the Mozambican National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC) established an intensive protection zone (IPZ) within the park with the purpose of creating a stronghold in an area that has the largest concentration of game. Peter says that because of the high game numbers here, the area is an important component of tourism development which will, if the game has recovered, attract tourism investors. It is also a critical focus point for illegal activities of wildlife crime syndicates. Patrolling the enormous expanse of the park’s more than one million hectares is an almost impossible task with the resources available. Through the IPZ strategy, 80% of anti-poaching resources can now be allocated to securing the most vital poaching hotspots along the park’s western border, which is shared with the Kruger National Park.
Valuable research also impacted
For many years, the Greater Limpopo Carnivore Programme has been doing continuous research in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) covering an area of approximately 38 000km2. Through scientifically-guided conservation activities, the programme aims to recover and restore the long-term viability of the lion population spread across the large cross-border conservation landscape which forms part of the Great Limpopo TFCA.
Led by Dr Kris Everatte, the Greater Limpopo Carnivore Programme investigates how predators move from the source, usually the Kruger National Park, into the vacant area of the Limpopo National Park. According to Peter, Peace Parks Foundation welcomes this important research as lion is a key species which needs to be continuously monitored. He says, “They are always in conflict with villagers in the area because of the threat they pose to their livestock and livelihoods. To mitigate this, villagers are encouraged to corral their cattle at night, and park rangers and the research team provide early detection and warning to villagers when lion enter their areas. What is, however, making the situation worse is that some poachers are specifically targeting lion for their bones, which are harvested for both traditional use and for export to the East.”
Gaining a deeper understanding
Because poisoning is a regional issue which needs to be understood, a baseline study has been commissioned by Peace Parks Foundation in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area in Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The researchers have gone out to the villages to try and gain a deeper understanding of the issues that are promoting poisoning. They had several interviews with district leaders, community leaders and park officials in which they asked very direct questions, such as what the advantages of poisoning are. By fully understanding the subject, appropriate interventions can be developed which will address the underlying issues by offering alternative solutions.