Whenever I hear the word ‘snare’, the first thing that comes to mind is LooneyTunes style bear traps, with their big metal teeth and deadly bite. Before I saw a wire snare for the first time, I would have never guessed that a length of rope or cable could be equally deadly.
And yet, snares in chimpanzee habitats are usually just that: knotted wires that hide on the forest floor and, once jostled, pull tight enough to trap, injure, or kill the chimpanzee. Sometimes it can take days for a chimpanzee to free themselves, often ending in serious injury or even amputation. Other times, the chimpanzee isn’t fortunate enough to make it out at all.
From missing fingers to missing feet, it is estimated that 30% of the chimpanzees at Kibale National Park, a large chimpanzee habitat in Uganda, suffer from snare-related injuries. The number is chilling, but it isn’t a hopeless situation. If those snares can be found and removed before an unlucky chimpanzee finds them, then hundreds of injuries and deaths can be prevented each year.
In Uganda, the Jane Goodall Institute is working hard to find and remove as many snares in the forests as they can. But they don’t just stop at removing snares; they also involve the local people, to stop new snares from being laid down. By hiring former poachers to search for and remove snares, the Jane Goodall Institute’s snare removal program offers the people who would otherwise be setting traps a new source of income. Unlike poaching, this new job works for the chimpanzees, instead of against them. I like to think of it as being twice as effective: not only are snares being removed, but these former poachers are no longer setting new ones.
The Jane Goodall Institute of Uganda estimates that protecting the chimps in a forest block from the horror of snares costs $6000 a year. When I heard that number, at first I thought it was a lot. But then I did the math: if every citizen of Toronto chipped in a dollar once to save a chimpanzee and help a former poacher find a new calling, we could make 435 forest blocks chimpanzee friendly. That would be enough to keep every chimpanzee habitat in Uganda snare-free for over a decade!
I know I’ll get my dollar(s) by forgoing my cup of coffee once a week and donating that money instead… How will you get yours?