Cruel death waits in a poacher’s snare

Jeffrey Heath shows where wire is tied around trees and piles of branches to snare animals.

There has been a sharp increase in the number of snares being set by poachers in the city’s greenbelts since the start of the pandemic, says the SPCA.

Jeffrey Heath, of Wynberg, found snares in the Klaasenbosch greenbelt while removing invasive ivy earlier this month and since then has cleared about 50 wire snares from the area between Oak Avenue and the stables in Hohenort Avenue.

“I should have taken a picture, but I was in a frenzy to clear them and save the animals. I’ve seen duiker dropping here,” said Mr Heath.

Mr Heath alerted the SANParks Honorary Rangers who have been working alongside the Urban Caracal Project to clear snares and traps.

Honorary ranger Robert Stella said they had removed snares from Tafelberg Road, where poachers snare dassies; Dassenberg in Atlantis; Ou Kaapseweg; Fish Hoek below Peers Cave; and Noordhoek wetlands, among others.

“The poachers do not discriminate and snare guinea fowl, mongoose, grysbokkies, duiker, caracal, baboon, tortoise, genet and domestic cats and dogs,” said Mr Stella.

“A Constantia baboon died from a snare around its neck. We’ve also found bones of dead animals with the snare still around their necks.”

Cape of Good Hope SPCA chief inspector Jaco Pieterse said they responded to at least two call-outs a month to retrieve animals stuck in snares.

“Snares offer a cruel, agonising and drawn-out death to any animal that gets caught in one. The type of snares we find here (greenbelts) are of the self-locking, noose-type snare made either from binding wire, bicycle brake cable, construction string or plastic packaging rope.

“Set up along game trails or at water points where animals frequent, the snares are anchored to a rock or heavy branch and work to attach themselves around an animal’s neck, limb or mid-body, ‘locking’ around the animal the more it struggles to free itself,” said Mr Pieterse.

“Since the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of snares being set on the urban edge. The misconception is that snares are being set by the hungry and the homeless who need to eat, but animals are being trapped not only for the pot but also for their pelts, such as spotted genets and water mongoose, and increasingly to supply the muti trade with parts from caracal, porcupine, tortoise, serval and chacma baboon driving demand.”

There needed to be a greater awareness about the prevalence of snares in our neighbourhoods, he said.

“Cape Town’s active outdoor community of hikers, dog walkers, trail runners, cyclists, horse-riders and nature lovers should look out for snares – they are easy to spot once you know what to look for.”

Ecologist Dr Gabriella Leighton, of the Urban Caracal Project, said a juvenile female caracal had recently been found with a snare on its paw near Eagles Nest wine estate above Constantia Main Road.

“We’re not sure where she picked up the snare but likely in the Constantia area as her movement was very limited by the injury, and she had not been able to hunt for weeks. She died of her wounds,” said Dr Leighton.

“Once an animal’s limb is caught, the snare tightens and it will be killed by the poacher or die from the injury, exhaustion from trying to escape, or starvation while trapped in the snare. However, if it manages to break free, it can take days or weeks to die from the injury and associated infections,” said Dr Leighton.

Mayoral committee member for community services and health Patricia van der Ross said the recreation and parks department had discovered snares in the Constantia greenbelts, which were removed when found.

She said porcupines were the primary target, commonly killed for their quills, which were then sold to vendors at local tourist markets. Sometimes their meat was also eaten once the quills had been removed.

Mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment Eddie Andrews said the City’s biodiversity management staff were aware of the snares, which were a citywide problem.

Residents can report snares or suspicious activities to law enforcement at 107 from a landline, 021 480 7700 from a cellphone, or email the City’s recreation and parks department at RP.Enquiries@capetown.gov.za. For more information on snares, visit www.urbancaracal.org/snare-aware.

This caracal was freed from a gin trip in Hout Bay.
Jeffrey Heath has been clearing snares from the Klaasenbosch greenbelt between Oak and Hohenort avenues.
Jeffrey Heath with Belinda Haytread who said a juevenile caracal was recently killed in the greenbelts.
A snare cut through the paw of this female caracal found in Constantia.
A snare cut through the abdomen of this juvenile male caracal caught near Kuils River.