A rare Sumatran tiger pregnant with two tiger cubs was caught by a snare – a deadly wire trap – set by a poacher that was intended for wild pigs. The tigress struggled and broke free from the trap with its wire still cutting into her abdomen. She eventually succumbed to her injuries at the edge of a cliff. When forest officials discovered her, she was no longer breathing.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic news but this is only the latest of many cases. Snares and other traps present a growing crisis that now plagues the forests of Sumatra and Southeast Asia, devastating wildlife and jeopardising years of tiger conservation efforts,” said Sunarto, Wildlife and Landscape Ecologist, WWF-Indonesia.
The tigress was found dead near Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve in Sumatra, Indonesia. A male and female cub were living inside her and would be due in one to two weeks’ time. However, when the trap finally ruptured they kidney of the pregnant tigress, all three lives were lost at once.
The female tiger was found to have broken the snare trap, but could not free herself from the steel wire that became tightly twisted around her body, eventually cutting into her abdomen and rupturing one of her kidneys
Over the last 15 years, at least 130 critically endangered Sumatran tigers were killed by snare traps, according to data collected by HarimauKita, a collaborative forum in Sumatra whose members includes staff of the government, conservation organisations, and other partners. These traps are estimated to have doubled between 2006 and 2014 in Sumatra – the only place in the world where the iconic species like wild tigers, orangutans, elephants and rhinos are found in the same habitat.
Unfortunately, these snares made of steel or any kind of wire can maim or kill indiscriminately, from smaller mammals to larger predators like wild tigers. They destroy the biodiversity of habitats where they are set.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg. Because wire snares are so easy to set up and to hide, it’s impossible to know how many of such deadly snares are being set up every day, and even harder to know exactly how many wild tigers have been killed by snares here,” Sunarto added.
When tigers are poached using snares, their entire bodies are taken away from the forest, leaving little to no evidence that they were ever there. Poaching is fuelled by the demand for illegal wildlife products, where tigers and their parts are sold to the black market in many parts of Asia. Globally, illegal wildlife trade is estimated to reach US$20 billion annually, making it the world’s fourth largest illicit trade after narcotics, human trafficking, and trade in counterfeit goods.
Upon receiving this news, WWF’s Tiger Patrol Unit in collaboration with the authority immediately conducted a sweep to remove any other snares that may be left in the habitat where the pregnant tiger was found.
At the same time, another team in WWF’s Sumatra office visited local villages in the area to alert local communities of this incident and to engage them in ongoing dialogues to stop the use of these traps to catch wild animals.
Despite the protected status of Asia’s forests, hundreds of thousands of deadly snares are removed by rangers annually. In Cambodia, rangers removed over 100,000 snares in just six years in a single protected area.
The snaring crisis is growing at such an unprecedented rate that it requires urgent integrated global response. Governments need to set clearer regulations around the use of snares near these protected areas and strengthen long-term support for professional rangers who are enforcing these regulations.
Similarly, WWF and governments must continue to partner with local communities as stakeholders in safeguarding the wildlife and wild places that their livelihoods rely on.
WWF is working with governments, businesses, conservation partners and local communities to drive TX2 – the global goal to double wild tigers by 2022.