By Hannah Campbell
Social media is currently flooded with photos and stories of nature ‘thriving in lockdown’. We’re all loving the sight of clear Venetian canals and hearing that China is cracking down on the illegal wildlife trade. It’s certainly true that nature is securing short-term gains from an enforced reduction in destructive human behaviours, but this is masking a much more serious longer-term problem – that wildlife conservation is now under serious threat.
So what does the COVID-19 crisis really mean for wildlife and conservation?
Reduced Operating Budgets
Most conservation efforts worldwide depend on both the people who work in protected areas such as rangers, and the income from ecotourism. With social distancing and the travel ban, many conservation areas are left with a hugely reduced operating budget and workforce, leading to many challenges in continuing to protect critical wildlife habitat and the endangered and vulnerable species that it is home to.
Increased Security Risks
The reduced operating budget isn’t the only issue. With the tourism industry being hit country-wide and the global impact on the economy, Kenya has seen large scale job losses. In many areas, this means an increased poaching and security threat, with more people unemployed who may turn to crime in order to feed their families.
With COVID-19 expected to cause a revenue loss of up to $450 billion in the tourism sector, many countries that rely heavily on the tourism industry (including Africa) will have less resources to devote to wildlife conservation. This, coupled with the fact that land currently used for conservation could also be used for agriculture, is a worrying thought for conservation. To justify the existence of conservation areas, economic and social benefits must be seen by the local populations and government.
Here at Loisaba, we provide benefits to community members that would not be possible if it weren’t for Wildlife Tourism, and the conservancy that attracts it. Health clinics, education days, scholarships, school infrastructure support, security services and many more benefits help community members place a value on wildlife. However, with the collapse of tourism, many conservation areas will no longer be able to offer these benefits to communities, endangering the positive connection local people have with the wildlife they share their space with.
We need your help!
With the closure of Loisaba’s tourism properties, our operating budget has been reduced significantly – with a forecasted $1 million lost in revenue from tourism and other areas of income that would usually contribute toward wildlife security, conservancy operations and community outreach programmes.
If you would like to help us maintain zero poaching levels, keep our rangers on the ground, protect endangered species and support local communities who have no access to healthcare, please donate today.
Even a small donation will make a huge difference to Loisaba’s conservation and community development work.
Thank you, and stay safe.