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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.
All but a few populations of polar bears found in the high Arctic could be extinct by 2100 due to the drastic loss of sea ice across their range, according to a study in the Journal Nature Climate Change published Monday. Without ice, polar bears must survive on land, long distances from their food supplies, causing them to go hungry.
by Julia Fine, ODP Contributing Writer Due to the impact of the pandemic, poaching has “surged” in Uganda, as Dina Fine Maron reported last week in National Geographic. Using illegal wire snares and steel traps, poachers are able to catch unsuspecting animals such as antelopes, giraffes, and lions. According to National Geographic, “thousands” of these […]
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