WARNING: The article contains graphic content and images and may upset some readers.
In the hands of a harvester, a piece of wire is used to kill. The same piece of thread, in the hands of two relatives from Hoedspruit in Limpopo, makes the most beautiful jewellery.
Lilly and Troy Otto, founders of the organization Down to the Wire, combined their creativity to turn something that causes so much pain and destruction into a valuable and useful collector’s item.
Lilly says snares are a widespread and serious problem that causes the death of millions of animals worldwide every year in the most cruel way imaginable. Moreover, it is an extremely efficient method that requires little effort from the poacher, but poses a great threat to various game species.
“If wildlife can escape – which according to several experts rarely happens – they do not simply survive without human intervention and often die due to the serious injuries they sustained in the entanglement.
“They die a slow and painful death,” explains Lilly.
Down to the Wire was inspired by the lack of awareness about snares in general and the effects they have on wildlife.
According to Lilly, they strive to transform traps into something inspiring, useful and beautiful; something that symbolizes hope for nature and raises awareness about the critical topic.
“All our products are unique and handmade and are inspired by our wonderful animals in South Africa. Our goal is to inform as many people as possible about the negative impact that traps have on our wildlife.
“We want to create hope where there is none; we want to save innocent animals threatened by snares from a cruel death.”
Lilly says she and Troy have always had a great love for animals and they wanted to find a way to help animals in a unique way.
“My brother was busy with a trap removal operation together with other anti-poaching units when he came across a warthog in a trap. He could see how the animal suffered, how cruelly she died. It broke his heart, he wanted so badly to do something to help her…
“That’s when our dream for Down to the Wire began,” says Lilly.
“When our organization managed to save the first animal, the bug really bit. We just wanted to yet save animals We really want to make a difference in animals’ lives.”
Down to the Wire uses snares – supplied to them by anti-poaching units – to create jewellery. The prices of items in the jewelery range range from R80 to R300.
“The money we collect with the jewels is then donated to anti-poaching units and vets to treat animals caught in traps,” says Lilly.
“Anti-poaching units are doing their best to remove these death traps from our wildlife areas, but once removed, the traps serve no purpose. That’s why we decided to find alternative ways to turn something so destructive into something that symbolizes hope,” says Lilly.
“We strive to create awareness about this critical topic. We strive to turn bows into unique, handmade jewels that can be seen as a symbol of life.
“Any animal affected by entanglement should not be left without help, regardless of their size or endangered status,” says Lilly.
“Who would have ever thought that something that wreaks so much havoc could be transformed into something so beautiful?”
Cathy Troskie, co-founder of Phalaborwa Natural Heritage Foundation (PNHF), a non-profit anti-poaching unit, says illegal game poaching is a long-standing problem and one of the most popular ways to poach is through the use of wire snares.
“Down to the Wire tackles these threats to our precious wildlife. They make our work much easier and have been providing support in various operations for some time now.
“They don’t always come together on snare removal operations because they are really very busy, but in terms of funds, they have always helped.
“If, for example, there is an elephant in a trap, a helicopter must be hired and vet costs must be covered. A single operation can cost up to R40 000,” says Cathy.
“We regularly keep them informed of the operations we are engaged in and they also reach out to other organizations to help bear the costs.
“They really play a big role in our operations; for us, Down to the Wire is extremely valuable.”
Down to the Wire also offers classes where those interested can learn the art – of making jewelry from bows – themselves.
“If you want to do something meaningful, exciting and inspiring, look no further. It’s a mix of adventure, education and the fight to save our wildlife,” says Lilly.
“You will learn to design and create your own line of string art and jewellery. Your unique style and taste will be reflected in your items and the proceeds from the sale of your unique items will be used to save animals.
“That’s how we make a real difference in nature conservation.”
Check out Down to the Wire’s jewelry made from wire loops here.