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Wildlife sanctuaries, game reserves, and national parks in Asia, Africa, and South America have closed during the COVID-19 pandemic as borders have been shut, visas restricted and quarantines enforced to limit the spread of the virus. While in US national parks that led to a flourishing of wildlife because the tourists were not there, however, just the opposite is true in many other countries. The Washington Post reported that as a result there is greatly reduced enforcement of wildlife trafficking prohibitions and protection for wildlife because the entire ecotourism “ecosystem” had to be laid off — from rangers to guides and drivers, to animal caregivers.
Why This Matters: Globally this drastic reduction (80% in most places) translates into losses of trillions of dollars and millions of jobs to local communities for whom this is their only income, and these declines in travel are expected to last at least a year. Already the illegal wildlife trade and exploitation of natural resources and endangered species have increased, according to the Internation Union for the Conservation of Nature. And experts agree that this makes the risk of another pandemic even greater because these are exactly what facilitates the spillover and spread of zoonotic diseases.
Refisch believes that digital solutions are possible replacements — for example, he cites this initiative to promote virtual ecotourism. It won’t come close to replacing the lost income from big-dollar ecotourism, but it shows that there might be new business models to try. There are other initiatives as well, such as The Internet of Elephants, a collaborative social enterprise working towards a stronger connection between people and wild animals, which has partnered with the Borneo Nature Foundation and the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project to design Wildeverse, an augmented reality game featuring gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans.
What You Can Do: Donate to initiatives such as Lion’s Share to support communities that are highly dependent on income from tourism; or the SOS African Wildlife initiative, which responds to COVID-19 related threats.
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Almost 1,000 of Florida’s manatees have died as of Oct.1 this year, setting a tragic record for the most deaths in a year, with two months left to go. Deaths were largely caused by starvation — the predator-less sea cows typically spend hours a day eating seagrass, but declining […]
Do you have a good eye? Are you surprisingly good at Where’s Waldo and like Walruses? If so, we have great opportunity for you! The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is seeking volunteers to help count Atlantic walruses…from space. Sea ice is retreating fast as global temperatures rise, forcing walruses to crowd on smaller floes […]
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer At a UN conference in Kunming, China, President Xi Jinping set aside $230 million to form a fund that preserves biodiversity in developing countries. This announcement was made at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity talks (COP15) which are dedicated to preserving delicate ecosystems and preventing plants and animals […]
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