The impact of Covid-19 has been felt in every corner of our wide world, and even by our wild animals. It is incredible to think that everything seemed normal and fine just a couple of months ago. Now there seems to be a growing desire amongst people to want something to change and to be part of the solution. While politicians and policy makers across the world strive to find solutions to the huge challenges facing healthcare, social programs and employment, I want to address and shine a spotlight on the impact on wildlife conservation across Africa of COVID-19.
What is the missing piece in most wildlife conservation projects in Africa?
Everything in nature is connected down to a microscopic virus like the novel corona. The same connection applies to how most wildlife conservation projects work within Africa’s wildlife sanctuaries. The more tourists the parks receive, the more revenue will be collected from tour operators and visitors which means more funds available for the protection of wildlife and overall operations of the national parks.
One of the primary ways most national parks in Africa are able to sustainably fund the work to protect all wildlife from poachers, is to use the revenue collected in the form of park entrance and concession fees which are payable by tour operators like Wito Africa Safaris when they take tourists to visit the parks on safari. Similarly, the presence of staff (and tourists alike) in safari camps and lodges that operate inside the national parks and within wildlife corridors also play a key role in deterring poachers.
However, since the majority of the properties are temporarily closed due to lack of international visitors, we feel like it is perhaps only a matter of time before the wildlife is even more exposed to this great danger. During these tough times of massive unemployment rates, the cost of acquiring bush meat is cheaper than buying other sources of meat (beef, chicken…etc) and there’s a possibility to sell it to other people and create a source of temporary income. Poachers typically use snares to capture many different types of animal. As the world struggles to find solutions to the COVID-19 puzzle, we fear that our precious wildlife – big and small – are becoming increasingly vulnerable.
With little information on exactly what will transpire post pandemic, I am afraid the anti-poaching projects will also run out of the money needed to manage day-to-day operations which is vital to keep such vast protected areas safe from poachers.
However, YOU, our wonderful travellers from around the world are part of the solution! You are the missing piece to make our tightly connected ecosystem work again, and we want you to understand that the future of our wildlife is depending on travellers like you to help protect them and continue the incredible work of conservation across Africa. The world is making the necessary adjustments to cope with the pandemic, but when it is safe to travel again, we encourage you to return to Africa.