Poaching on the Rise as Coronavirus Wipes Out Ecotourism

While we’ve seen the headlines of animals reclaiming cities and roaming wild as humans are stuck indoors, COVID-19 lockdowns have not been entirely beneficial for wildlife. In fact, in many regions of the world (like India, Southeast Asia, Africa and South America) poaching has increased

As the Independent explained,the sudden fall in tourism income has also deprived wildlife reserves and national parks of a reliable funding stream to further protect animal populations.” In places like Southern Africa, poaching has been especially troublesome.

Why This Matters: It’s a difficult and uncertain time right now. While some animals are being poached for food, larger species like rhinos and elephants are being poached for their ivory. Lack of regard for nature is what likely caused the COVID-19 pandemic and we’re still not learning our lesson. Poaching must be treated as a criminal issue instead of a conservation issue and the world needs to come together to shut down markets for the illicit wildlife trade as well as invest in conservation. 

The Good News: Last Friday, the District of Columbia passed a law to address the surging local market for goods that contribute to declines in endangered wildlife. The Elephant Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Trafficking Prohibition Act bans the sale of elephant ivory and rhino horn in the District.

DC now joins with 11 states that have passed anti-trafficking laws which provides a crucial safeguard against the illegal sale of animal products.

Rhinos Hit Hard: As NBC News reported, in Botswana, at least six rhinos have been poached since the virus shut down tourism.

  • Botswana’s security forces in April shot and killed five suspected poachers in two incidents. In northwest South Africa, at least nine rhinos have been killed since the virus lockdown.
  • All the poaching took place in what were previously tourism areas that were safe for animals to roam.

What Will Happen: As Damian Aspinall, chairman of the Aspinall Foundation, explained to National Geographic, how long anti-poaching activities can remain fully operational in South Africa will depend on whether they’re funded by the government or private entities. Government reserves with annual operating budgets aren’t wholly dependent on tourism, Aspinall says, but “in most private reserves, anti-poaching is completely reliant on tourism and game sales.”

Michael O’Brien-Onyeka who leads Conservation International’s field division in Kenya stressed that the global response COVID-19 and the lessons we learn from our connection to nature will be vital in protecting game parks in Africa going forward. He explained to ABC news that as governments contemplating bailouts and economic relief packages lawmakers cannot “forget these communities that have secured ecosystems and wildlife for decades, for generations.”

He says these communities rely on ecotourism to protect their delicate environments, but no one knows when tourists will come back. Adding that, “We need to find a way to support these communities so that they keep protecting these critical ecosystems that are very important here.”

He stressed,

We are suffering the consequences of messing around with nature, with COVID-19. We’ve gone through that with Ebola, and if we’re not careful with the solutions we put on the table in order to get out of this crisis, past the pandemic, we might create more future problems for ourselves.”

Up Next

Dogs Can Sniff Out COVID-19

Dogs Can Sniff Out COVID-19

Scent detection dogs may be the best tool for finding and fighting the spread of COVID-19, according to some promising new research at the University of Helsinki.

Why This Matters:  COVID-19 detecting dogs could be immensely helpful in rooting out the disease in places where it might otherwise be hard to detect, such as sporting events, airports to find the virus on surfaces, and border crossings, and places where early detection is important, like nursing homes and retirement communities, and by helping to screen people within the medical care sector who test positive so as to avoid unnecessary quarantines for those who have been exposed.

Continue Reading 366 words
We Need Animals to Survive—But First, We Need to Include Them

We Need Animals to Survive—But First, We Need to Include Them

By Beth Allgood, U.S. Country Director, International Fund for Animal Welfare It’s often said that dogs are man’s best friend. This common phrase may seem simple to most, but it holds a very important lesson: animals are important to human wellbeing. IFAW’s newest report, Animals are Key to Human Development: A Guidebook for Incorporating Conservation […]

Continue Reading 1003 words
One Cool Thing: Wildlife Comes Out At National Parks

One Cool Thing: Wildlife Comes Out At National Parks

Park Rangers at National Parks that have been closed for many weeks have observed things they had never seen before.  For example, pronghorn antelope in the sun-scorched lowlands of Death Valley National Park, and at Yosemite, with traffic a distant memory, deer, bobcats, and black bears have made their way into Yosemite Valley and are […]

Continue Reading 173 words