Snare removals: Making the forest safe for Saola.
One of the greatest threats to Saola is widespread, illegal snaring in forests along the Laos/Vietnam border, where the world’s entire population of Saola lives. Although commercial poachers rarely target Saola specifically (since Saola have comparatively little value in the wildlife trade), the snares they set for other wildlife are not selective.
A few years ago, the SWG brainstormed with our partner the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Greater Mekong Programme on a concept of privately funded, trained and supervised forest guards, hired from local communities, to patrol the new Hue Saola Nature Reserve in central Vietnam. In 2011, WWF began implementing this innovative model in collaboration with Thua Thien-Hue Province (and WWF recently scaled it up to two more reserves with Saola: one in Vietnam's Quang Nam Province and one in Laos). The results have been remarkable. From February 2011 to September 2012, the forest guards collected and destroyed 19,593 wire snares. Encouragingly, WWF’s data show that the forest guards' snare encounter rate has since declined sharply. Not only are the forest guards successful at removing snares, but also at keeping them out of the forest.
On the Laos side of the border, SWG’s partner the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) replicated the model in Bolikhamxay Province, in the new Phou Sithone Endangered Species Conservation Area (established by Bolikhamxay Province, specifically to protect Saola). So far, funding constraints have required them to operate on a more limited scale. Yet in six months of activity between September 2011 and November 2012, the teams destroyed 7,058 wire snares.
That’s a total of 26,651 snares removed from Saola habitat in less than two years! 26,651 fewer chances of a Saola dying. This is the most concrete, on-the-ground result for Saola conservation since the species’ scientific discovery 20 years ago. And the effort has surely saved many other wild animals besides Saola from a slow and agonizing death. Congratulations to all involved - in particular WWF, WCS, and the provinces of Thua-Thien Hue and Quang Nam in Vietnam, and Bolikhamxay in Laos.
Your donation to the Saola Working Group will help keep these snare collections going.