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The Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), Serengeti National Parks (SENAPA), and investors from the tourism sector are actively collaborating in protecting the tourism resources in the Serengeti National Park. The annual migration of more than a million wildebeest constitutes the most unique aspect of the ecosystem, but research demonstrates that approximately 40,000 wildebeests are annually illegally harvested.Without intervention, the number is expected to increase to 80,000 wildebeests, which would be 7% of the total wildebeest found in the ecosystem.
The main medium of illegal harvesting of wildebeest is the use of wire snares, which also trap endangered species such as elephants and lions. To address this threat, stakeholders agreed to set up a mobile de-snaring team that patrols Serengeti National Park and the surrounding protected areas, to find, remove and destroy snares. This project began in May 2017 and has to date removed more than 10,000 snares.
The Serengeti De-Snaring team spends at least 16 days out of every month on patrol looking for snares. When found, snares are removed, counted and stockpiled in a secure storeroom in park headquarters for latter destruction. Live animals are often found caught in snares, especially when the snaring specifically targets the migration. If the animal caught is a zebra or wildebeest, they are removed by the de-snaring team, either by releasing the noose, or if very tight, by cutting the wire. The veterinary team is called in to remove more dangerous animals from the snare.
Throughout the year animals are seen by park management or the tourism sector wandering with snares around their necks or legs. These animals have managed to break the snare from where it is attached to a tree, but still carry the tight noose, often cutting deeply into the flesh. The park’s Veterinary department is then called in to dart and immobilize the animal so that the snares can be removed and the wound can be treated.
The goal of this project is to support the work of the De-Snaring team by enabling the Serengeti vets to maintain an adequate supply of the drugs and medicines necessary for this important work. Elephants in particular suffer greatly from being caught in snares, as they have the strength to break the attachment of the snare but in so doing, pull the noose very tight resulting in terrible wounds to legs and animals missing a section of their trunk is a fairly common sight.
This will project will help train vet technicians, enabling them to complete the Malilangwe Course on Chemical and Physical Restraint of African Wildlife and ensuring the safe capture of wild animals in the Serengeti.
The remaining funds will be used to buy immobilization equipment and drugs for the Serengeti National Park veterinary team to use during their de-snaring activities.
This project is co-managed by Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park authorities and the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS). FZS has worked in the Serengeti for more than 50 years, providing financial and technical support to park authorities. The project is funded primarily by tour operators that lead safaris in the National Park. The team consists of Serengeti park rangers as well as community members from villages surrounding the National Park. Many of these are former poachers, thus the project offers an important source of alternative income. As former poachers, community members have invaluable expertise in where to look for snares.
This project is a key component of a larger strategy to mitigate threats to the Serengeti’s wildlife. It simultaneously contributes to community conservation efforts on the park’s borders and the law enforcement strategy to reduce poaching within the park.