National Geographic : 1972 Feb
Slaughter by slow torture: Mangled foot and leg stump bear witness to the agonizing, lingering death of a bushbuck, caught in two snares in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park. Wire nooses, entangling the little antelope as it followed a game trail, bit ever deeper as the animal fought to escape. Today every African nation outlaws wire snares, but the carnage continues. On a 7,800-square-mile Mozambique reserve, BOB CAMPBELL(OPPOSITE)AND VOLKMARWENTZEL,NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSTAFF workers dispose of thousands of snares impounded in periodic sweeps (above). Often working for syndicates, commercial poachers systematically plunder wildlife, despite strenuous efforts to control them. The traffic will end, conservationists be lieve, only when people around the world no longer buy coats made of skins of spotted cats, handbags of crocodile hide, and aph rodisiacs of pulverized rhino horn. still rich in game: kudu, nyala, impala, eland, reedbuck, sable antelope. Both elders could remember hartebeest in their youth, but that animal is gone from the area, exterminated by hunters. Until recently, many African hunters used bow and arrow. Massukutna, I was told, had few equals. To shoot an animal often required hours of patient stalking. The arrow seldom felled a large animal, and the enraged quarry sometimes charged. A hunter had to be brave and skillful. But he was just as callous to animal suffer ing as the hunter or poacher who sets snares. Massukutna, like thousands of Africans still hunting with primitive weapons, used poison on his arrows, a concoction made from the seeds of the Strophanthus plant. Unless hit in a vital spot, a large animal might take as long as ten or eleven hours to die. The poison fa vored in East Africa, brewed from the wood or bark of the Acokanthera, is more potent. Yet hunters cut away only the flesh surround ing the arrowhead; the rest can be eaten. Is the poison illegal? Of course-but so are wire snares. War Against Poachers Never Ends Twelve years ago the Mozambique Gov ernment set aside 7,800 square miles along the Save River, including Massukutna's homeland, as a hunting reserve. Safarilandia, a company catering to big-game trophy hunt ers, administers the huge area. It has sole responsibility for control of poaching, a job that never ends. "Since 1959 we have impounded more than 90,000 snares," said Werner von Alvensleben, Safarilandia's field director. "I estimate that when we came here, 300 animals were being killed every day in wire snares. We have cut that down to a hundred a day. If we left now, not one animal would be alive in this region in ten years." Von Alvensleben, a tall, powerful, bearded man with superb bush skills, is a hunter's hunter-and that's enough to damn him among some people. But I do not know a sin gle conservation expert who decries con trolled, licensed hunting. In many African countries hunting revenues are a principal support of conservation efforts, and profes sional hunters are among the most devoted conservationists. Werner, for example, had just talked Mozambique authorities into tak ing 1,700 square miles of his domain and mak ing it a park.