Illegal snaring for bush meat in Zambia's Luangwa Valley is widespread and represents a major threat to important non target species such as elephants, lions and wild dogs. In recent years, snaring of wildlife in South Luangwa has increased dramatically for a variety of cross cutting reasons. In addition to ongoing ivory and meat poaching using illegal homemade muzzle-loading guns and other firearms, a very real and growing threat exists in the form of wire snaring. For example, the number of snared elephants is on the rise and snaring data from the past five years indicates a probable increase of 57% in elephant mortalities due to snaring injuries had the SLCS medical team not intervened.
This project is aimed at reducing widespread illegal snaring activities and identifying and treating snared animals in the Luangwa Valley through supporting the community-based village scout anti-poaching patrols, wildlife rescue of snared animals and aerial surveillance. Last year, the SLCS project rescued and rehabilitated over 200 snared animals and is estimated to have saved 1046 animals from snares through snare removal programs and patrols, apprehending 74 suspects and confiscating 26 firearms.
Taronga's support will continue to provide village scout anti-poaching patrols the rations, fuel for patrols, aerial support and veterinary supplies, to continue to reduce illegal snaring activities and offer rescue and treatment to injured wildlife in South Luangwa. The activities will have the impact of: removing snares from the bush; improving law enforcement within the park; increasing community participation in conservation and reporting of snares and snared animals; darting and treatment of snared animals reported to SLCS; improving ability to locate snared animals through aerial surveillance; reduced number of snared animal mortalities and increased capacity building and strengthening ties between SLCS, Zambia Wildlife Authority and the community.
With funding from Taronga in 2014, South Luangwa Conservation Society have been able to increase patrols in the national park and game management area and support aerial surveillance and wildlife rescue veterinary work. During this year, 1136 snares were removed from wildlife, 78 suspect poachers were apprehended and 24 firearms were confiscated. Their work also involved multiple anti-fishing patrols in collaboration with the Zambia Wildlife Authority scouts, and the Fisheries Department. A fishing ban was implemented from November 2013 to February 2014 and they used this opportunity to remove as many fishermen and illegal nets as possible via river patrols. Despite this additional funding and SLCS’s critical efforts in wildlife protection, poaching remains a very real threat to wildlife in Zambia and ongoing efforts need to be continued.
The South Luangwa Conservation Society (SLCS) began as a body of people that could respond quickly to the poaching incidents that were increasing beyond the Zambia Wildlife Authority’s capacity. Initially funded by safari operators and lodge owners, in 2003 they were named SLCS and became part of the Zambia Wildlife Authority, giving the response group more power and protection. This project is supported by the Taronga Foundation and the Elephant team at Taronga Western Plains Zoo through the sales of elephant paintings.
What can you do?
Keep an eye out for trade in wildlife products: Illegal international trade in wildlife including many bird and reptile species and products such as ivory, rhino horn and tiger bone has increased dramatically in recent years. This practice is decimating our natural resources at an unprecedented rate. Groups working on the ground to stop this are not given the legal power or financial support necessary to track and prosecute these highly efficient, organised criminals. Speak out about this important issue – tell local, state and federal or international authorities that you support action to conserve wildlife and their habitats.