Monsoon 2023 – There’s many aspects to wildlife crime but snares highlight the brutality

If you’re new to the site you can read previous updates below this one as well as go through the menu. If you can help, even in a small way, go HERE but right now I urge you to read this post. It’s not for the faint hearted, it’s for those with the courage to care and act.

three leopards I mentioned in the post dated February 2023. The leopard I was with survived, the leopard in the image obviously didn’t, it was incident number four in a short period of time in our region, one of five in fact.

That was in western Nepal alone and just a selected time frame. Add the history, add what’s happened since regarding leopards killed in snares including this below:

The link to the article is HERE. When it was published nearly a month ago as I write this there was barely a ripple in reaction. A follow up version by one of the lead study orgs, Panthera, is HERE and it has meant more traction but still an overall disappointing global response. A direct link to the study paper is HERE.

All three articles attribute snares as the major component in the decline of the leopard in Cambodia. Snares not only kill leopards but their prey species. The tiger has already vanished from Cambodia and with the leopard following suit it not only means a complete ecological disaster, caused by humans, it also means that the sub-species, the critically endangered Indochinese leopard, is now restricted to even less area. To quote the Panthera article:

“Scientists are now issuing a grave warning of the Indochinese leopard’s impending extinction from the planet without immediate conservation funding and action in its remaining two strongholds in peninsular Malaysia and the Northern Tenasserim Forest Complex on the Thailand-Myanmar border. A lack of funding and competing species conservation priorities have largely prevented implementation of initiatives specifically targeting recovery and growth of the last Indochinese leopards.”

The image above was sent to me a few days ago from an area near Kruger National Park in South Africa. The leopard survived I’m relieved to report. Most don’t but even if they do the effects can be permanent including of course the trauma and suffering from the ordeal. Leopards are sentient beings, those who have followed my work with these animals know I cannot put enough emphasis on that fact.

So in the space of a few words I’ve described and shown images of the snaring of leopards in three main geographical zones, South Asia, South-East Asia and Africa. The leopard is the most widespread of the big cats, by association it is the most persecuted but to complete the human driven paradox, the leopard is the least supported in conservation efforts.

The next image tells a different story but is closely related to the overall situation.

This bird seller (part of a gang involved in the trafficking of mainly parakeets) on the streets of Kathmandu was operating with confidence and little fear of arrest. The illegal bird trade is often used as an indicator of the level of wildlife trafficking in a certain area. If traders are operating with impunity (open street selling or are easy to find with the right questions) it usually means that there is a likelihood other species being readily available. Wildlife crime has many different aspects including poaching for bushmeat (for personal consumption or market), targeted species poaching for selling derivatives (body parts), the pet and collectors trade plus the increasingly complex dynamic of instances where wild animals are killed to protect crops or livestock and subsequently end up in the illegal market. This can include what is known as retaliation killing with leopard deaths commonplace through these actions. If the tolerance for these markets is high either through cultural norms or lack of law enforcement then indicators such as the bird trade are more apparent. Different species can be traded either visibly or underground in these circumstances and if corruption is involved then detection and containment of these illegal activities becomes less likely.

In countries such as India and Nepal the tiger is king when it comes to conservation effort, with the rhino not too far behind. Species such as the elephant and the snow leopard have different types of status which can dictate the funding available thus the will to protect. For tiger, snow leopard and elephant there is the complication of human-wildlife conflict which if severe will affect tolerance levels thus conservation efforts. Coexistence is now the buzz word, its meaning is evolving, something to be examined in a future blog. I use the South Asian context as an example of similar situations world wide, we could easily be talking about wolves or bears on different continents but I sit here now in this environment viewing the challenges in front of my eyes.

The challenges for the leopard symbolize those for species outside the rock stars I mentioned in the last paragraph. In human-wildlife conflict scenarios there is far less tolerance for leopards than for the rock star species. At community level this can be for many reasons but a particular one is that the Indian leopard (panthera pardus fusca) found in mainly in India, Nepal and Pakistan there is usually no balancing force such as tourism bringing in funds. This is generally the case in habitats distant from protected areas (PAs) where safari or trekking are economic factors. This has made me question the value systems we have in place because although there is continual dialogue regarding predators and prey for ecological stability, it’s not backed up with conservation effort away from the PAs. This means wildlife protection is less. It’s important to mention here that not all PAs are safe and within that thinking there are different levels of protection. That is also the important topic for another time.

So we then have the perfect storm. We have wild animals living in areas with very little protection and we have markets available to sell those animals, dead or alive.

For many land mammals and ground dwelling birds, snares are the tool people use in this perfect storm, combining all the dynamics I have outlined.

I hate snares. I have seen the results of their killing too many times and when leopards have actually managed to recover, the trauma I mentioned earlier is apparent. Witnessing these effects on individual leopards, individuals with their own characters, their own lives, it shows that in the end it doesn’t matter if the snare was set by a bushmeat poacher or someone part of a trafficking network or even if retaliation is the goal, the outcome is usually a brutal death. By the same token, a snare in Cambodia to finish a leopard population is no different to a snare in an area in South Asia where leopards are hanging on for grim life, it is still the individual animal which suffers.

I hope by reading these words you have joined the dots, that a bird being sold on the street is connected to a leopard’s life somewhere else. LeopardEye has a counter poaching/trafficking component to it called #AntiSnare and while it is obvious why details of strategy cannot be written here be sure to know that if you can give support you do make a difference. Each animal is precious, to save that life is worth the effort. Simply click on the image below to do that.

My thanks for doing that, next time the update will contain another story about a leopard living among us, how coexistence is possible. I’m active at X and YouTube both using @jackkinross