It is estimated that over 500,000 animals are killed for bushmeat each year in the Tsavo Conservation Area.
Bushmeat is taken by snaring along wildlife pathways. People set up wires attached firmly on one end, with the other end a loop loosely attached to surrounding bush. Animals pass through and get their head or leg caught.
A snare is like a landmine – it stays until any animal trips it, gets caught, and dies – and it often takes non-target species like lions and elephants. If an animal can escape, it is usually severely maimed and will die of infection, dislocated or lost limbs.
Killing any wildlife is illegal anywhere in Kenya. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) “owns” every wild animal. Snares set on private land are just as illegal as those set on Park or Reserve land.
A small percentage of what is taken is eaten locally, but by far, most of this meat is exported to Nairobi or Mombasa and beyond to other countries. A study done by the Born Free Foundation found that over 35% of the meat sold in markets in Nairobi as beef was in fact, bushmeat.
This is not sustainable. Not only will there be no more animals to kill for money – poachers are killing off the prey of the large cats, who then will turn to eating livestock.
There are teams whose job is to remove these snares – hot, dusty and dangerous work walking through thorny bush where a snake or a buffalo could turn up at any moment. These teams do hard important work, but cannot be everywhere all the time – and when they return to an area previously desnared – there are always more snares to be found.
The key is to stop people from setting them. Stop because they know it’s not sustainable, and because they have alternative means to make a living. Stop because they want to stop.
Most people do not know that one of the most commonly snared animals, dikdik (the smallest antelope in Kenya at 12-15” tall and 7-12 lbs.), are monogamous and mate for life. When they realize that if they kill one for meat, they leave the spouse alone for the rest of its life – even the toughest poachers seem disturbed by this fact.