Snares – either metal or rope – are indiscriminately killing wildlife across Southeast Asia, from elephants to mouse deer. The problem has become so bad that scientists are referring to protected areas in the region as “empty forests.”
A simple brake cable for motorbikes can kill a tiger, a bear, even a young elephant in Southeast Asia. Local hunters use these ubiquitous wires to create snares – indiscriminate forest bombs – that are crippling and killing Southeast Asia’s most charismatic species and many lesser-known animals as well. A fact from a new paper in Biodiversity Conservation highlights the scale of this epidemic: in Cambodia’s Southern Cardamom National Park rangers with the Wildlife Alliance removed 109,217 snares over just six years.
“Some forests in Vietnam don’t have any mammals left larger than squirrels,” Thomas Gray, the lead author of the new paper and the Science Director for Wildlife Alliance, said. “Given how diverse these forests formally were this must be having substantial impacts on ecosystem services and the [forest’s] entire biodiversity.”
According to Gray, the snaring crisis is worst in Vietnam and Laos, but is increasing in Cambodia – where he works – as well as Myanmar, Indonesia and Thailand. In some places – even protected areas – it is so bad that scientists talk of “empty forests” where hunters have literally stripped the ecosystem of all medium-to-large animals.