HOW WILL CORONAVIRUS AFFECT CONSERVATION?
Covid-19 is predominantly seen as a human health crisis, but its impact is wide-reaching. Conservation efforts are suffering, and this may persist in the long term. Here’s five ways conservation efforts could be affected.
Less money is being generated for conservation. In particular, wildlife tourism is suffering because air travel has been dramatically reduced across the world and many national parks have closed to wildlife tourists, such as Kruger National Park in South Africa. Even once restrictions ease, it might be some time before wildlife tourists holiday again, or wildlife destinations reopen.
Lack of funding can impact park operations and result in redundancies. Rangers, guards and tourists – their presence a deterrent to poachers – might be removed, leaving endangered animals vulnerable. For example, Botswana has seen a surge in rhino poaching incidents.
Pressures on natural resources
Lockdown in countries where society lives hand-to-mouth has cut off access to food and income. People are unable to travel to cities to work, or to send money home to rural areas. More people might resort to rural living, being more reliant than usual on natural resources and wild places to survive, leading to an increase in hunting for meat.
As well as an increased reliance on natural resources and wild places, people will also rely more on other forest products for small local income generation, such as the mahua flower in the Satpuda Landscape in India, which is used to make liquor and pickles. With people entering forests more, an increase in negative human-wildlife encounters is possible. When this involves carnivores, such as tigers in India, it can result in injury or loss of life, which leads to increased fear, anger and persecution of wildlife.
Some animals, like gorillas, are known to suffer from human respiratory diseases, and might be susceptible to the virus that causes covid-19. The indiscriminate death of otherwise healthy adult gorillas can dramatically affect populations and the survival of the species. This is particularly worrying for very vulnerable species, such as the mountain gorillas of the Virungas.
We must be prepared for these extra challenges. Resources must be made available and wildlife protection efforts redoubled. Born Free is prepared for these extra challenges. We will do all we can to support our partners to access the resources they need and will strive for wildlife protection efforts to be redoubled across our programmes.