Illegal bushmeat trade and snaring – threats for lions

Bushmeat Trade - a problem all over Africa - Two woman selling illegal bushmeat
Bushmeat Trade – Illegal and a problem all over Africa

The primary reason for bushmeat hunting is to acquire meat for human consumption. This occurs nearly entirely in developing countries across Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. In addition to severe ecological impacts, illegal bushmeat hunting causes serious negative economic and social impacts on lion populations. Killing methods such as snaring are silent and harm many species across the board from ungulates to carnivores and even elephants. The devastating reduction in prey species numbers has a direct effect on the already threatened lion populations.

National Geographic Explorer, Derreck Joubert says, “Bushmeat in small quantities is often seen as ‘just substance hunting’ but it has far reaching effects. When poachers enter our national parks and reserves specifically for meat they often target predators simply because it is easier and less dangerous to operate in a predator-free hunting area.”

While a few years ago, illegal hunters were motivated by their need to create a kind of income, bushmeat trade is now mostly driven by commercially acting criminal gangs. Meat that not only has been produced under unhygienic conditions may even carry and cause diseases like Ebola, Smallpox, Chicken Pox, Tuberculosis, Measles, Rabies, Yellow Fever and more.

Bushmeat hunting even threatens tourism in Botswana’s Okavango Delta: Botswana is not normally associated with high levels of poaching, however this report finds that illegal bushmeat hunting is occurring at such as significant scale in the Delta that, the large quantities of bushmeat reported by some hunters suggests the existence of an organised commercial element to the industry, with capacity to harvest, transport and dispose of significant volumes.

One of Ugandas Queen Elisabeth Park’s lionesses ‘Naturinda’ got caught in a snare that almost took her life. Snares set by poachers do more than eliminate lion prey. They also directly wound or kill lions.
Uganda: Lioness ‘Naturinda’ was caught in a snare that almost took her life.

When poaching for bushmeat comes to mind, one may think of poachers hunting animals with high-powered rifles in hand, but the biggest danger is posed by poachers setting up snares:

  • Snares are difficult to find – Poachers who set-up snares are usually experienced at concealing them, making it difficult for game rangers and anti-poaching units to find the snares.
  • Snares have a simple design – Perhaps the biggest problem with snares is their simple design. All you need is a bit of wire and wire cutters. Simple, cheap, lightweight and easy to set up.
  • Numbers game – A bushmeat trader will make more money if he sells more meat, so it makes sense to set up as many snares as he can.
  • Snares don’t discriminate – Wildlife caught in snares are often not the intended targets (referred to as ‘by-catch’ by poachers).
  • Snares often not re-visited and are wasteful – Poachers often don’t revisit all of the snares they placed, meaning if an animal is caught in a snare, it often dies and rots well before it’s found. It’s estimated that almost 90% of all animals caught in snares are not collected by poachers, but left to rot.
  • Snares are inhumane – Lastly, snares are inhumane. Once an animal is caught in a snare, its natural reaction is to try to free itself. In trying to do this, the noose gets tighter and tighter. An animal may struggle for hours, even at the expense of injuring itself, in the hope it will finally break free. In the event that the animal does break free, its wounds may be so severe, that infection sets in leading to a slow and painful death. *

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