The thick steel wire ran between the horns of the buffalo skull embedded deep in the bone, and circled around the right side to where it had cut through the skin on the lower mandible, preventing the animal from being able to eat properly.
It was believed the snare had been slowly choking the female for about a year, said Johan de Beer, pictured, before two lionesses killed her.
He is the commander of the Kruger National Park K9 unit and aside from catching poachers, his team is responsible for removing the plethora of wire snares in the park.
“We have a problem along our boundaries, especially in the Pretoriuskop area, with some in Malelane and Skukuza,” he said yesterday.
Punda Maria and Pafuri in the north of the park were also full of snares, beyond subsistence hunting to full-blown commercial trapping.
“The guys place about 200 snares at a time and then pick up the meat later,” said De Beer. “They will take some of the meat and leave the other snares behind.”
Few animals have the power to snap the snare’s wire, instead sometimes breaking the tree or branch it is attached to.
The simple but deadly effective running loop system allows the wire to tighten instantly, sentencing the animal to a slow death.
Members of the K9 unit and honorary game rangers dismantle dozens of snares daily.
Last year, more than 3,000 were removed as the demand in the muti and bushmeat trade grew.
Behind De Beer on the unit’s administration block boundary fence hung thick, twisted, cables used for elephant and hippo poaching to bloudraad fencing wire and thin braided strands used to catch smaller animals. But as soon as the snares are removed, the poachers replace them.
“If you catch the guy, the sentence is not as big for poaching. I think it should actually be more, given the cruelty to animals,” said De Beer.
Five years in prison is the maximum sentence handed down.