On the 24th of April, a female tiger was found dead in Northern Sumatra, her head and leg almost severed from a snare. Just five hundred meters away, the bodies of a male and female tiger were also found, both with leg injuries.
Sumatrans are one of the most critically endangered tiger species in the world, with only around 400 estimated to remain in the wild. The species’ decline is largely due to the rampant destruction of its rainforest habitat, the resulting increase in conflict with humans and the direct and indirect threats from poaching. This latest blow to the species comes as the lasting effects of COVID are exposing them to increasing risks.
There is a worry that the coronavirus pandemic has led to increased poaching as villagers turn to hunting to supplement diminished incomes. Meanwhile, budgets set aside for the protection of tigers and their habitats have been slashed by governments looking to reallocate funds toward COVID-relief operations. This has led to a reduction in rangers across tiger habitats a drop in morale for those left.
Rangers are fundamental in tackling the problem of snaring, often removing multiple snares a day on their patrols. They are also able to perform small scale wildlife first aid or alert a wildlife vet if there is an animal who needs de-snaring.
The scale and complexities of wildlife consumption, make it a very challenging problem to solve. Having adequate numbers of properly paid rangers with sufficient equipment is certainly essential to provide immediate protection to endangered species and their wider ecosystems. However, due to the multifaceted nature of this issue, attention must also be focused on poverty alleviation to reduce the dependence on poaching for nutrition and livelihoods. Reducing demand through awareness-raising and behavior-change campaigns must also be a core component of tackling the issue of poaching whether it be the demand in domestic markets for bushmeat or in the wider international context for wild animal parts. Only by tackling both ends of the supply chain will we be able to change the trajectory of the current wildlife crisis.