Snares pose a significant threat to the giraffes of Meru

6 September 2022


Giraffes are an iconic African species are at risk of extinction, with snaring representing a significant threat. Born Free has created a Twiga Team of eco-scouts dedicated to conducting daily patrols to remove snares and create a safe environment for giraffes to thrive.

Picture an African landscape and no doubt you will imagine giraffes. Giraffes are one of the most iconic species of the African plains. These gentle beings are predominantly browsers, spending at times 75% of their day feeding on the trees and shrubs using their long necks, sometimes at near vertical angles. Yet giraffes are often forgotten in conservation and are in danger of a ‘silent’ extinction.

Conflicts with local farmers and increasing competition for food and water resulting from livestock incursions into protected areas are pushing populations of giraffes closer to the brink of extinction. Giraffes are classified as ‘Vulnerable’ by the IUCN, and populations across Africa are declining, with fewer than 100,000 individuals now left in the wild. One of the several sub-species, the reticulated giraffe, has declined by a staggering 56% in the last 30 years to fewer than 16,000 individuals, making them one of the most endangered giraffe sub-species. Clearly something needs to be done!

The Meru Conservation Area (MCA) in Kenya is home to 10% of the remaining population of reticulated giraffes, and therefore it is imperative that this stronghold is protected. Unfortunately, one of the greatest threats the giraffes here face are wire snares. Poverty levels amongst communities in this region are high, so some locals have unfortunately turned to snaring to for food and to provide an income. Snares represent one of the cruellest methods of poaching, designed to snag, tighten, and cut into animals resulting in extreme pain and stress, and a potentially protracted death.

A young elephant

These snares are laid by poachers aiming to capture smaller herbivores such as zebra and kudu, but snares are indiscriminate, harming whatever animal sadly crosses their path, with giraffes being particularly vulnerable to them due to their long, elegant legs.

But it is not just giraffes at risk. We recently received a devastating report from the field of a young male elephant – named Mutia by our team – that had lost half his trunk, likely as a result of it getting trapped in a wire snare. Mutia (pictured right) is, understandably, nervous, and easily agitated by the presence of people, so our team will continue to monitor him from a distance. The bull seems to have adapted to his new norm and was seen by our team feeding and drinking. But the next animal might not escape with their life. Snaring must stop.

In response, Born Free have trained and mobilised the Twiga Team – Twiga meaning giraffe in Swahili. The team comprises men and women from the local communities who have a passion for the wildlife they grew up with and have dedicated their livelihood to carry out daily patrols in the MCA to remove wire snares and monitor any signs of illegal activity. With their presence in both the protected areas and their own communities, increasing awareness about the impact of snares, the prevalence of snares will decrease, fostering a safer environment for giraffes, and many other species, to thrive.

You can support our Twiga team and our ambition to remove all wire snares from Meru by donating to Born Free’s giraffe conservation work today! You can also adopt our giraffe family in Meru which will provide support to our Twiga team to conserve this majestic species.