One of the major threats facing wildlife populations within SPF is indiscriminate hunting, primarily through the use of wire snares. Hunting would traditionally have been carried out at a low intensity to meet the subsistence needs of communities in and around Seima Protection Forest but it is currently being pushed towards unsustainable levels, driven by increasing demand from local, regional and international markets. Mammals are particularly vulnerable to hunting of this kind, and snaring generally targets ungulates and carnivores.
Hunting with wire snares is illegal and SPF law enforcement teams aim to both remove snares and also to deter hunters. However, snares are extremely difficult to detect and are dispersed across a vast area. Furthermore, little is known about hunter behaviour, such as how and why they choose particular areas to set snares. All of these aspects make it difficult to determine how best to use available resources to effectively tackle hunting.
During the wet season when annual surveys are completed and fieldwork is at a minimum, members of the biological monitoring team take to the forest in search of snares. They concentrate on areas known to be important for wildlife and attempt to clear these areas of snares. However, in early 2011 an independent snare survey team was established for the first time to work throughout the dry season, and to survey the SPF core area in a systematic way. In addition to removing snares the team will record auxiliary data which will facilitate a better understanding of hunter behaviour and allow more targeted anti-poaching strategies to be developed in the future.
The snare survey team is comprised of three local community members, two of whom are experienced members of the biological monitoring team and have extensive knowledge of the forest. The fourth team member is a volunteer, who has expert field and navigation skills and has been trained in data collection protocols. After the completion of this season's snare survey the SPF will retain this fully-trained local anti-snare team, which can supplement the activities of FA-led law patrol teams and capitalise on local knowledge of hunting activities within the forest.