Social Justice, Culture, & The Environment

Social Justice, Culture, & The Environment

Throughout Southeast Asia wildlife, large and small, is being injured and killed by means of snares.  A snare, for the uninitiated, is essentially the animal equivalent of a hangman’s noose, only made of wire or rope.  It can encircle a neck, leg, or body inflicting death or horrendous wounds with its death grip slicing into flesh, staunching the flow of oxygen or blood. It’s effective and brutal.

A recent paper on the wildlife snaring crisis published in the March 2018 edition of Biodiversity Conservation detailed the systematic “defaunation” or emptying forests of mid and large size animals largely by the use of snares.  In one Cambodian national park, guardian rangers seized 109,217 illegal snares over a six-year period. How many hundreds of thousands more went undetected is anyone’s guess.

According to the study’s authors, Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Thailand are fairly new comers to the illegal snare epidemic. Vietnam and Laos are the epi-centers with some Vietnamese forests denuded of nearly all but squirrel-size mammals.

Cambodian patrol ranger with confiscated wire snares

What’s to be done?  Instituting laws against carrying snare materials into woodlands seems impossible to enforce.  Setting snares in protected areas is already illegal.  Still such a prohibition does nothing to halt the practice.

Why do people commit illegal acts? Survival.  Seeking a more economically advanced life.  Abject brutality.  Ignorance of consequences.  Cultural tradition. Passing a law forbidding a form of behavior is quick. And it allows a majority of individuals a salve for the conscience in the sense of “see we did something” in spite of its having little or no effect on the problem.

Changing behavior?  That takes time.  Further, whatever change must be sought must take into consideration the cultural factors that also come into play in terms of food, social status, individual identity, and role within the societal structure.  Centuries old traditional medicine is another such consideration.

So, what is the key factor that can instill the importance of a land with native flora and fauna versus empty, lifeless habitat?  Perhaps its education that instills the concept of balance and abundance of life and the living.  Education that incorporates reverence for life of humans and the Earth without disrupting or denying cultural mores.

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