Removing snares to save giraffes

24 March 2023


Hard at work, our intrepid Twiga Team removes deadly snares to protect rare giraffes, but they need your help. Francis Kago, Project Officer for Saving Meru’s Giants, reports.

A herd of seven giraffes eating leaves from trees

Snaring is a cruel and painful threat to the wildlife of Meru National Park in Kenya. Giraffes, with their long, elegant legs, can be particularly susceptible so Born Free’s Twiga* Team is working tirelessly to remove snares and secure habitat so giraffes, and many other species, can live without this deadly threat. A recent incident demonstrates the extreme cruelty of snaring. 

Two members of Born Free's twiga team remove a wire snare from the carcass of a giraffe

The Twiga team discover the carcass of a snared giraffe

Giraffes are majestic animals, and they deserve to live out their lives in a safe, secure habitat. Unfortunately, their natural habitats are not always as safe as they should be. In Meru National Park, wire snares are frequently set illegal by poachers to catch ‘bushmeat’, which can cause harm or even death to these lovely animals.

In response to this dire circumstance, Born Free launched the Saving Meru’s Giants Project in 2021 and started de-snaring the habitat. The project aims at countering the snaring threat by deploying a de-snaring team called the Twiga Team, composed of local community members trained in humane de-snaring techniques, under the direction of Shadrack, the Twiga Team Supervisor.

The Twiga Team patrols the park, removing snares from the ground before they can injure any animals. During these patrols, they have encountered a variety of situations. In some cases, the team work with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) veterinarian to rescue animals from lethal snares before they perish, and, regrettably, in other cases, we remove snares from carcasses. The following describes an emotional encounter by the Twiga Team earlier this year:

It was a cool Wednesday evening in early February. The Twiga Team had pitched their tents that morning a few kilometres from where KWS rangers, on their normal daily evening patrols, had arrested a poacher with giraffe meat on his way out of the park. KWS had called the Twiga Team to support and intensify the patrols and remove snares in the general area around where the poacher had been arrested. The team were about to embark on an intensive ten-days of de-snaring patrols. After the routine briefing, the de-snaring foot patrols kicked off, accompanied by two KWS rangers.

On the patrol, the team noticed vultures from a distance that indicated a sign of a carcass and decided to move in the direction. On arrival they found a lioness feeding on a giraffe carcass, which was sadly estimated to be only a day old. While observing from a distance, they noticed that the giraffe had a wire snare cutting into its neck and part of its hind legs had been cut off with a sharp object and hanged on tree branches nearby, a clear indication of bushmeat poaching by locals. After an hour of patiently waiting, the lioness left the carcass to quench her thirst at a stream 100 metres away. The team swifty swung into action to remove the snare which had a length of 300 cm and 10 mm thickness, recorded the information, and proceeded with their patrols. In the area around the carcass, they recovered four other active wire snares set on animal trails.

These illegal activities are not only endangering the survival of giraffes but are also negatively impacting their natural habitat and the surrounding population’s access to food. But with the right initiatives in place, like the de-snaring team – created through Born Free’s partnership with local authorities and communities – this trend can be reversed.

The conservation efforts to de-snare the habitat for giraffes is an important and necessary step towards the overall protection of this iconic species and its population. Through collaboration with our Education team and Conservation Ambassadors from the local communities, we remain hopeful the de-snaring team effort will eventually reduce the number of snares present in the park, as well as the awareness campaigns raising the attention of bushmeat and poverty.

This effort is not only essential for the giraffes, but for the natural environment as a whole and for the communities living around the park, which will give them an opportunity to live in a safe, protected space. By supporting the de-snaring team through our End Wildlife Conflict appeal, you are giving the giraffe population a chance to thrive and continuing the efforts to promote a better community wildlife coexistence.

*Twiga means giraffe in Swahili