Snares push up calf mortality
Camera traps funded by Elephant Family, to help monitor population size and trends among elephants in the Cardamom Mountain Landscape in Cambodia, have revealed calves with severe injuries caused by wire snares.
The area in south-west Cambodia comprises c. 2 million ha of tropical forest and is one of the few contiguous areas in Indochina sufficiently large enough for the long-term viability of Asian elephants. Since 1999 Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been working with the Cambodian Government to recover this globally important elephant population with part of FFI’s conservation efforts including population monitoring using camera traps. Funding from Elephant Family helped the team set 51 camera traps from December 2016 to monitor the core elephant population of c.45 individuals within the Tatai Wildlife Sanctuary and Southern Cardamom National Park in the southern Cardamom Mountain Landscape, and an additional seven camera traps in Kirrirom National Park, to monitor a small subpopulation in the far south-east.
The team obtained photographs and videos of 15 different groups of elephants in the core area and of another group of six individuals in the Kirrirom subpopulation.
“We identified seven individual calves of which four had severe leg injuries from what appeared to be wire snares around the base of their legs,” report the team. “Additionally, our camera traps showed two adult and one sub-adult male elephants with trunk injuries and lacerations that appeared to have been caused by snares. In September 2017 local villagers found a carcass of an elephant calf that reportedly died from a snare wound. And a calf in Moldulkiri province in eastern Cambodia died in July 2016 of an infection from a snare wound similar to those observed in our camera-trap videos.”
These alarming findings raise concerns that wire snares could be causing unnaturally high calf mortality, jeopardizing the recovery of this critically important elephant population. The wire snares were not set for elephants but for capturing wildlife for the illegal bushmeat market and there are ongoing efforts to remove snares. In 2015, over 27,000 snares were removed from the Southern Cardamom National Park, yet snaring appears to be increasing another example of the ubiquitous threat that the bushmeat trade poses to wildlife.
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