In late December we caught our first poachers after years of trying. One of our rangers (both of the rangers involved in this capture will remain unnamed here) found a line of 16 snares that stretched about 400 meters. Every opening through the bush over the course of those 400 meters were snared with some wire heavy enough for large game such as Buffalo or Giraffe. Other wires were lighter and set for smaller gazelles. When the snares were found our ranger cleverly left the scene totally intact without disturbing any of the snares or laying his tracks down where the poacher would find them. On the next consecutive 2 mornings and evenings we placed a ranger waiting in hiding with a camera to capture the identity of the poacher.
(this pic shows how hard the snares can be to see even when you are looking straight at them)
On the third morning our ranger was in his hiding place pre dawn with his camera ready when small birds spotted him and sensing that he was a predator starting making alarm calls above his head. While the ranger was watching the birds the poacher suddenly appeared before him, having come to the sound of the birds. As the ranger tried to get his camera up to take the picture he was seen and the poacher ran. His identity though was known and he in fact turned out to be someone who had worked on Tumaren once before helping us clear some brush.
(with the light behind the snare is easier to see)
The police were promptly called and after they were picked up from their station (police in Kenya rarely use their own vehicles) they were driven to the poachers house where he was sleeping inside. On the premises the police uncovered more snares and the suspect promptly started admitting his guilt.
After taking statements and booking the poachers partner / brother we hoped that they might get a sentence that would fit the brutality and greed of the crime. When someone lays this many snares they are doing so for business not simply for the pot. In the course of waiting to catch the poacher several animals were maimed and killed trying to escape and so it was with great dismay that we learned they had been released after only a few days in jail. We have yet to learn why and how they got out but clearly you can assume that they had some help jumping what should be a serious charge.
Incredibly, a week back we were greeted at our camel boma by the poacher himself . He had come to “apologize” ! No sooner though had we accepted his apology when he asked for a job. Rather than shut him down we suggested that should our area remain snare free for the next consecutive few months then we would give thought to some temporary employment.
(This is the damage done to a tree from an animal trying to escape from a snare. for a small animal to inflict this much damage on a tree you can only imagine the damage inflicted to their own bodies)