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Protecting Gorongosa's Wildlife

Ranger Diary

"Looking for a snare is like looking for a needle in a haystack! Gorongosa is a vast wilderness and illegal hunters have a lot of places to go and a lot of places to set their snares. But my job is to find those snares before an animal steps in one. To do that, I have to think like a hunter myself. Where do the animals gather? When do they go there? What trails do they use? These questions allow me to find the places a snare could be. I look for "game trails", places where the constant traffic of animal hooves has flattened the earth. I look for their scat (or poop as you might call it) and I can tell which animals are using the trail and when they were last there. But when I get to the general area where animals might be congregating, I still have to find the trap. That's the hard part. It's hidden and it could be anywhere. But, if you know, you can see the evidence. We have been well-trained to "read the signs"...

Here, I see the soil and leaves have been disturbed - that means there was some kind unusual activity here. I look around. There, I see a strong branch has been bent like a bow towards the ground. My eyes follow the branch down and then I see it: a wire running from the end of the branch to a pin buried in the dirt, covered with leaves. I break off a stick, poke the leaves and snap! A noose of wire cinches around the stick and the branch whips backwards. If that was the hoof of an animal that had stepped on the pin, it would be trapped, doomed. Or the trap could have snared one of our majestic lions, maybe a mother with cubs to care for. A snare doesn't distinguish what animal puts its foot in the trap. It traps anything that is unlucky enough to step on it. I look around and see evidence of more snares. Where there is one snare, there are usually many more. Only one might catch an animal but the more snares that are set, the more chances one will catch an animal. That day, I found fifteen traps and I destroyed them all.

 

Just like everyone that works in Gorongosa I am happy I have employment but this is a very special job in a very special place. I go to bed every night beneath this huge roof of bright stars knowing I have helped to save the lives of many of our precious animals. Every day, I wake with a strong purpose and a sense of mission and pride. The battle to save our animals and this precious national park, my national park, goes on every day. We don't rest. We will not stop until we have found every snare."

The 120 rangers who patrol Gorongosa's vast wilderness are our heroes. But finding snares is just one way we protect and save this beautiful park. We also plant trees and work with the communities that live in and around the park.