Rangers play a vital role in conservation management and protection here in Nyika National Park, on the border of Malawi and Zambia, it is Norman who manages counter-poaching operations. This region is a hot-spot for unique species of both fauna and flora, so keeping alert for poaching activity is a constant part of the job.
As part of ensuring the safety of wildlife, rangers regularly monitor the terrain, checking in particular for the use of snares. This roan bull has been spotted carrying a cable snare. Snares are anchored cable or wire nooses that are widely used by subsistence and commercial poachers for bushmeat consumption and trade. They are one of the simplest traps, very cheap to produce, easy to set in large numbers and very effective. A snare traps an animal around the neck or body making it impossible for the animal to shake off. The sad fact is that many animals caught in snares die slow and painful deaths, so finding and removing the snares at source is vital to help the wildlife roam free.
In order to locate where the animal might have picked up the snare, the anti-poaching team has to backtrack the herd’s movements over 5 km. They find and confiscate 31 snares, many of which are placed along a water source to trap the animals when they come to drink. Unfortunately, one snared reedbuck ram is found too late to be saved. This is sadly not an uncommon sight in many protected areas where poaching remains a constant threat to wildlife.
The good news is that through a co-management agreement with Peace Parks and the Governments of Malawi, multiple innovative conservation programmes are seeing real success in this mountainous terrain. By regularly sweeping areas for cable snares, the rangers are removing these dangerous traps as well as tracking poachers’ movements. And every snare that is removed means another animal saved from suffering or even death. The people living in this landscape are also being educated on the consequences of the unsustainable use of natural resources and how critically important wildlife protection is for both the health of the ecosystem and livelihood opportunities created through tourism.