The village scouts are our front line, protecting the conservancy and its surrounding areas from all manner of destructive practices such as poaching and illegal logging. One never knows what they will bring back to camp on returning from a patrol. It might be a bedraggled poacher or two, a confiscated axe or bicycle, but most often it is handful of snares.
Over the last couple of years the office storeroom has slowly filled up with lengths of heavy gauge wire that have been left by poachers at various points around the property. These snares are a simple but deadly effective means of trapping even the largest of wild animals. Fashioned into a noose, the wire cables are placed along the pathways used by wildlife. Once snared the animal will remain trapped, suffering for hours or even days before the poacher returns to finish it off.
Given its protected status, Rufunsa Conservancy is one of the last remaining areas in the region where there are still populations of larger animals such as Roan and Sable. These are a prized target for poachers given that a single animal can represents a significant quantity of bushmeat to be sold on the local market. But due to the vigilance of our village scouts, poaching has been greatly reduced in Rufunsa and, as a consequence, in the neighbouring Lower Zambezi National Park.
The question remains however, what to do with all those recovered snares littering up the storeroom? They are not easy to dispose of and unless one is willing to undertake the laborious task of cutting them up into small pieces, there is the risk of them disappearing and being reused. Fortunately the ideal solution was at hand. We are currently in the process of training up some our staff in construction methods. As part of that training they are busy building an accommodation block for the village scouts.
It seemed only appropriate then that at the critical point of pouring the concrete for the building’s foundations that we use the wire snares as part of the reinforcing. That way, not only would it prove impossible for anyone to remove the snares in order to continue their destructive work, but the village scouts could sleep soundly knowing that the fruits of their labour were helping to hold up the very building in which they slept. Inspiration for this idea came from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya (https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org).
By: Alan Deverell, Conservation Consultant