A snaring crisis grips Southeast Asia, threatening its biodiversity

A deadly crisis is spreading across Southeast Asia, silently emptying forests of wildlife. In recent years, poachers have driven a proliferation of commercial snares—rudimentary traps made of wire, rope, or cable—to capture animals for the illegal wildlife trade and to meet increasing demand for wildlife meat. Snares now threaten 80% of Southeast Asia’s mammal species, according to a 2020 WWF report.

Unlike traditional snares, which are made of natural fibers and used by Indigenous communities, commercial snares are inexpensive and easy to set in large numbers, and they remain lethal much longer. They’re also indiscriminate: Species from elephants to pangolins can be trapped for days or weeks before succumbing to injury, infection, or starvation.

In response, WWF has organized community and government ranger patrols to remove thousands of snares from 10 protected areas in the Greater Mekong. We’ve also provided trainings to help rangers and local communities prevent wildlife crime. But to stop this threat, governments must strengthen legislation to prohibit commercial snaring and deter poachers. And we must continue working to reduce illegal wildlife trade and the demand that drives it.

Elephant line illustration© DAVID ARKY/WWF-US, STYLED BY KELLIE MURPHY



Estimated number of snares on the ground in
protected areas across Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos—
countries at the heart of the regional snaring crisis.


Because snaring leads to extended close contact between people and wildlife, experts believe it greatly increases the likelihood of exposure to zoonotic diseases and could contribute to the spread of new viruses among humans.


Snaring impacts over 700 mammal species in Southeast Asia, including rare animals such as the Asian elephant, Sumatran rhinoceros, saola, and banteng.


In Malaysia’s Belum-Temengor landscape, tiger numbers plummeted by 50% between 2009 and 2018, largely due to snaring.

Explore More

World Wildlife magazine provides an inspiring, in-depth look at the connections between animals, people and our planet. Published quarterly by WWF, the magazine helps make you a part of our efforts to solve some of the most pressing issues facing the natural world.

View all issues