- Date: July 09, 2020
- Author: Whitney Kent
A snaring crisis in Southeast Asia is not only driving wildlife extinction, but also potentially increasing humans’ risk of exposure to zoonotic diseases. According to a new WWF report, Silence of the Snares: Southeast Asia’s Snaring Crisis, it is estimated that over 12 million snares are set every year throughout protected areas in Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), and Viet Nam, a group of countries at the center of the region’s snaring crisis. While 12 million is an astounding number, the total number of snares on the ground in Southeast Asia is likely even higher since WWF’s report only analyzed a portion of the region’s total protected areas.
These rudimentary but deadly traps are mostly used to capture wildlife for the illegal wildlife trade, and supply an increasing demand for wild meat and animal products in urban areas. In Southeast Asia, snaring is not only leading to rapid declines in animal populations and even extinctions of key local species, it is also posing a threat to human health by increasing close contact between people and wildlife which in turn can increase the chances of zoonotic disease transfer. Many of the animals targeted by snaring, including wild pig, palm civets, and pangolins, are among the highest risk for zoonotic disease transmission.
Overall, snares impact more than 700 mammal species in the region, including rare and charismatic animals such as the Asian elephant, Asian two-horned rhinoceros, saola, and banteng. They are also the greatest threat to the long-term presence of tigers in Southeast Asia, which are now functionally extinct in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam, with snares not only killing tigers but also their prey.
Simply removing snares is not enough to address this crisis. WWF is urging governments in Southeast Asia to strengthen legislation to deter snaring and invest in more resources to support patrolling and monitoring of protected areas. Governments must also take steps to limit the purchase, sale, transport and consumption of wildlife species that are of high risk for zoonotic disease transmission, including most of the ungulates and carnivores that are major targets for snaring. Lastly, engagement with local communities and partners is crucial in curbing the demand that drives widespread snaring and ultimately protecting these important ecosystems.