In Uganda, we are fortunate that the local culture does not promote hunting of apes for the bushmeat trade. However, people do enter the forest to set snares for small game, such as pigs and duiker. Snares are inexpensive and simple to set. A typical snare consists of a small camouflaged loop of wire or nylon attached to a bent pole. When an animal steps into the wire, the pole releases and tightens the wire around the animal’s leg.
Though not set for chimpanzees, snares represent a major hazard for chimpanzees because they can step in snares as they move through the forest. Juveniles are particularly vulnerable because they play as they travel and therefore pay less attention to where they are stepping. Chimpanzees are incredibly strong and thus are typically able to rip the wire from the pole or the pole from the ground. This tightens the snare loop and cuts into chimpanzee’s skin.
Approximately one-third of chimpanzees at Kanyawara have snare injuries, ranging from missing or bent digits to deformed or amputated hands and feet. For animals that rely on climbing and traveling long distances to reach food, these injuries can be a severe impediment to survival.
Kibale Chimpanzee Project, in collaboration with the Uganda Wildlife Authority have supported a snare removal program in Kibale since 1997. Our patrol team finds and removes hundreds of snares per year and our research identifies the areas where hunting and other illegal activities occur within the national park. Despite this aggressive effort, new snare injuries still occur, mainly in chimpanzees who range in the peripheral areas of the home range or who immigrate to Kanyawara from other areas of the forest. We aim to expand our snare removal efforts, as well as to use community outreach programs to promote conservation education within local schools (see The Kasiisi Project) and communities as well as to encourage alternatives to illegal hunting.