Beginning May 8, the Detroit Zoo will display sculptures of East African wildlife, such as elephants, giraffes and lions, crafted by Ugandan villagers. The Snares to Wares Initiative promotes using tire wire to  create artistic products for sale instead of traps that threaten conservation efforts.

Beginning May 8, the Detroit Zoo will display sculptures of East African wildlife, such as elephants, giraffes and lions, crafted by Ugandan villagers. The Snares to Wares Initiative promotes using tire wire to create artistic products for sale instead of traps that threaten conservation efforts.

Photo provided by Patricia Janeway


Snares to Wares Initiative to showcase exhibition at Detroit Zoo

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published May 8, 2019

 From left, Michigan State University associate professor Robert Montgomery, MSU doctoral student Tutilo Mudumba and MSU research assistant Sophia Jingo scout Murchison Falls National Park.

From left, Michigan State University associate professor Robert Montgomery, MSU doctoral student Tutilo Mudumba and MSU research assistant Sophia Jingo scout Murchison Falls National Park.

Photo provided by Patricia Janeway

 Residents of the Ugandan village of Pakwach show off wares they fashioned from wire traps picked up from nearby Murchison Falls National Park.

Residents of the Ugandan village of Pakwach show off wares they fashioned from wire traps picked up from nearby Murchison Falls National Park.

Photo provided by Patricia Janeway

 A lion, crafted from material used  to illegally trap East African wildlife,  will be on display at the Detroit Zoo through March 2020 as part of  the “Snares to Wares Initiative:  Capacity for Change” exhibition.

A lion, crafted from material used to illegally trap East African wildlife, will be on display at the Detroit Zoo through March 2020 as part of the “Snares to Wares Initiative: Capacity for Change” exhibition.

Photo provided by Patricia Janeway

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ROYAL OAK — From May 8 to March 2020, the “Snares to Wares Initiative: Capacity for Change” exhibition will be on display in the Detroit Zoo’s Wildlife Interpretive Gallery.

In an effort to reduce illegal snare traps that threaten wildlife in East Africa, the Snares to Wares Initiative strives to foster entrepreneurship instead of poaching.

Researchers from Michigan State University have been working with youths in Uganda to implement the program to transform tire wire, which forms the crude traps, into works of art modeled after the animals that populate the region.

A life-sized lion sculpture commissioned by the Detroit Zoological Society will be part of the exhibition.

Besides saving wildlife, the program strives to provide young people in Pakwach — one of the poorest villages in Uganda on the western border of Murchison Falls National Park — new skills and a constructive way to make money.

Poachers recruit youths to set the traps. Because of the high level of poverty in the region, villagers also set the traps in hopes of snagging Ugandan kob, a type of antelope that resembles a white-tailed deer, to feed their families.

However, all terrestrial animals are at risk of becoming ensnared and fatally injured, including giraffes, lions and elephants.

“Snares to Wares exemplifies what can happen when people have a way to provide for themselves that is good for their families and good for wildlife,” DZS Chief Life Sciences Officer Scott Carter said in a statement. “The initiative has created an alternative to poaching as a source of income that is helping wildlife and people in Uganda, and is a model for communities around the world.”

Robert Montgomery, an associate professor with MSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and Ugandan native and MSU fisheries and wildlife doctoral student Tutilo Mudumba co-founded the Snares to Wares Initiative.

Montgomery runs a lab called RECaP (Research on the Ecology of Carnivores and their Prey), and the pair work closely to develop innovations for conservation problems and to train the next generation of conservation leaders.

“All wildlife conservation problems are human livelihood issues at the core,” Montgomery said.

In 2014, he recruited Mudumba, who was already a renowned expert in large carnivore conservation in Uganda, to pursue his advanced degree at MSU, and in 2015, the pair launched the initiative.

“It uses their preexisting knowledge of weaving, but weaving a different product for a target market,” Mudumba said. “Now they weave not baskets, like they were weaving before to catch fish or make rafts, but animal sculptures to sell to tourists who are coming to the area to see the same animals to keep as a souvenir.”

He said the tire wires are readily available, as Pakwach is located along a major highway and locals simply have to set discarded tires on fire to burn away the rubber and access the underlying steel wires.

“They simply extend them out into a lasso or loop, and anything which goes through the loops or lasso that tries to escape, the noose gets tighter and tighter,” Mudumba said. “If it’s around the neck, it’s usually fatal.”

Elephants whose trunks get trapped in the snares can starve to death, and animals that manage to break free often suffer large open wounds that become infected and also lead to death.

Mudumba said he has seen all manner of animals caught in traps, but the strangest was a water-dwelling crocodile, which was likely moving to a different pool during the dry season.

“It’s a common sight to find animals with a missing limb or elephant with a missing trunk (in the national park),” he said.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority, which patrols Murchison Falls National Park, has been inviting more local youths to participate in park activities and conservation efforts.

“(Before), bringing them inside the park was like showing them where to hunt,” Mudumba said. “We are starting to see momentum in area subsidies and depending on the same wildlife in a more sustainable way.”

The sculptures will be sold at the Zoofari Market at the Detroit Zoo.

The Detroit Zoo is located at 8450 W. 10 Mile Road, west of Woodward Avenue.

For more information about the Snares to Wares Initiative or to purchase products, visit www.snares towares.org. For more information about the Detroit Zoo, visit www.detroitzoo.org or call (248) 541-5717.

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