Sunday, June 20, 2010
Posted by Kenna at 4:39 PM
Snares are one of the unfortunate consequences of studying a large carnivore in a park surrounded by a pastoral rural community. Some Masai feel that placing snares around their homes is a good way to protect their families and livelihoods against hyenas and other carnivores. Snares are also utilized by poachers and in some areas you are likely to see them on every animal you come across.
When hyenas find themselves caught in a snare, they are usually able to gnaw the cord holding them down but are unable to remove the loop that has tightened around their neck or leg. Sometimes they die from their injuries or suffocate if they get the snare caught on something later on. Other times, they manage to survive with whatever handicap the snare creates. Kay has told us stories about finding hyena remains with snares embedded in the bones. One of our immigrant males, Oakland, has a scar from a snare that is still in his neck. By the time he was darted the wound had grown over and the snare could not be removed without endangering his life. He seems to be doing just fine with it and has remained an active member of the Talek West Clan. Although, I am not sure if this is due to the snare or not, but Oakland has the strangest-sounding whoop I have ever heard.
When I got here I naively thought that snares were a thing of the past. The Mara Conservancy has been cracking down on poaching in the area and most Masai seem to understand that large carnivores are what bring tourists to the Mara. That fantasy world was destroyed about a week ago when we first saw Gelato, one of our Talek West subadults, with a snare stuck on her neck. At this point it seems very loose but she is unable to get it off. We've seen a few younger cubs and other subadults really attack the snare during play (like in the picture above) and we are getting a little worried that this play might tighten the snare further. For this reason, we have made darting Gelato a top priority so that we can remove the snare. Unfortunately Gelato has been spending all her time with large groups of hyenas and so far, no opportunities to dart her have arisen.
Please think happy thoughts for Gelato and we'll keep you posted on her condition.