Two endangered leopards, including a rare black one, have been killed by snares in Sri Lanka in less than a week, sparking calls for authorities to crack down harder on the cruel traps.
In the latest case, the bloated carcass of a leopard was discovered Tuesday strangled by a wire snare on a cashew plantation on the edge of a forest reserve in Neluwa. A week earlier, a rare black leopard was found trapped alive near Nuwara Eliya but died two days later.
A third leopard was found trapped Friday at Yatiyantota. Wildlife officers were able to rescue him and released him back into the wild.
Although setting snares in national parks and reserves is against the law, they are not illegal elsewhere and farmers often use them to protect crops or catch wild boar.
Sri Lanka’s Wilderness and Wildlife Conservation Trust called for snares everywhere to be banned, and those who set them to be prosecuted. “Snares are indiscriminate and therefore can kill any animal, either protected or not,” the conservation group’s trustee Anjali Watson told the Daily Mirror local newspaper.
Sri Lankan conservationist Jayantha Jayewardene said the large amount of traps in areas might be because villagers are driven to desperation because the coronavirus lockdown has deprived them of income.
“For about two months, these people have not had any work, and without money for food they are setting up snares to catch wild boar,” Jayewardene said. “What we are facing is a bigger problem, not just a wildlife issue.”
There are believed to be less than 1,000 leopards in the wild in Sr Lanka, and harming the big cat is punishable by up to five years in jail.