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Deadly snares threaten big cat survival across mainland Asia, WWF-TRAFFIC briefing finds

  • A new briefing from WWF and TRAFFIC finds distressing evidence of documented snaring cases involving a minimum of 387 big cats (tigers, leopards, snow leopards and Asiatic lions) across seven Asian countries between 2012-2021, with a majority of cases documented outside protected areas.  
  • The data suggests tigers (Panthera tigris) and leopards (Panthera pardus) are particularly impacted by snaring, with more than a third of cases involving tigers (33%) and more than half of the documented cases involving leopards (63%).
  • WWF-TRAFFIC calls on governments across the Asian big cat range to prioritise inclusive actions that can adequately address the principal threat of snaring.

6 OCT 2022, 7 AM, Singapore Time GMT+8 — Released today, Snaring of Big Cats in Mainland Asia finds that the threat of snaring stretches across the continents’s vastly diverse landscapes, impacting all Asian big cats. These indiscriminate death-traps are one of the most destructive hunting techniques, cheap and easy to produce, and often made from widely available household items like rope, wires, and cables. 

The WWF-TRAFFIC briefing reviews documented snaring reports across big cat landscapes in Asia and identifies a minimum of 387 cases of Asian big cat snaring from Bangladesh, China, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The perspectives of nearly 900 rangers from Bhutan, India, Mongolia, Nepal and Pakistan were also analysed to identify the extent of snaring challenges in the sites they work. 

The research identifies targeted poaching of Asian big cats as a key driver of snaring. For example, half of the documented snaring incidents that killed tigers were reportedly due to snares specifically set to capture cats for the illegal wildlife trade.

A majority of snaring cases identified in the report also took place outside protected areas — 65% for tigers, 93% for leopards — where big cats often die as bycatch in snares set for ungulate species, either to prevent crop-raiding or to poach. For example, in India, where well over half of the global population of tigers live, the report finds that  59% of tiger mortality cases in snares and 73% of leopard mortality, where motivations are known, were due to accidental by-catch in snares. 

The findings highlight the need for governments to take holistic, multi-pronged steps to halt snaring, before big cat populations are pushed further to the brink of extinction. Offering a series of recommendations in order to tackle the threat, the report stresses that leadership from local communities, combined with an increase in the number and quality of adequately supported, effective, inclusive and professionalised ranger workforces, are key to dismantling the impact of snares. 

Rohit Singh, Lead, Zero Poaching, WWF Tigers Alive, said:This briefing is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of understanding the widespread impact of snaring across Asia. Interventions must go beyond removing snares — our work has shown that community-ranger partnerships play an undisputed role in tackling this threat and is key to protecting big cats and the health of the homes they share with millions of people.” 

Merwyn Fernandes, Coordinator, TRAFFIC India, said:The next phase of the Global Tiger Recovery Programme 2022-2034 has the potential to raise the profile of snaring and take much-needed action across the range, where snares threaten to derail decades of conservation progress on not just big cats, but a whole host of other ecologically and culturally important species. In doing so, we have the opportunity to also minimise the role of illegal wildlife trade in spreading zoonotic diseases, an important need as the range of wild cats continues to decline, bringing people and wildlife closer together.” 

Merapi Mat Raz, Senior Anti Poaching Unit Support Staff, WWF-Malaysia, said:In Belum-Temengor Forest Complex, my team of other Orang Asli community members have sometimes found and destroyed more than 100 wire snares in one day. I found many animals caught — sun bears, tigers, wild boars, barking deers and many more. I was so furious. We need to do more.” 

Dr. Margaret Kinnaird, Lead, Wildlife Practice, WWF International, said:Conserving big cats has the potential to produce significant biodiversity gains and provide a wide array of ecosystem services and direct benefits to local communities. The fate of people and big cats are closely intertwined, and our approach to big cat conservation going forward will be demonstrative of our capacity to live in harmony with nature.”
© Lor Sokhoeurn / WWF-Cambodia
Snares removed from the forest