No one can deny that the coronavirus pandemic has substantially changed our lives. Therefore, it is not a big surprise that Covid-19 also affected the flora and fauna on our planet. We all remember the videos of dolphin swimming around Venice and other encouraging footage. Here in South Africa, lions took over empty golf courses, leopards were seen in beautifully manicured gardens and giraffes were roaming through villages. The pandemic has clearly changed our beloved animal kingdom. But what about sustainability and conservation work? I interviewed Johan Maree from Wildlife ACT in order to find out the impact of Covid-19 on wildlife conservation in Africa.
What can visitors expect from their first safari conservation-based safari after lockdown?
Johan: Excited and relieved faces: So many people in Southern Africa are totally reliant on international tourism for their livelihoods, and we can’t wait to see people return to our beautiful continent. I’d like to encourage all travelers considering travelling to Africa to do so as soon as they can. By doing so, they will support a critical part of our economy, which has a direct effect on conservation initiatives.
Hands on – get involved in exciting conservation projects in South Africa
How has conservation work in Africa changed due to the pandemic?
Johan: Conservationists and protected area managers have realised that they need to diversify their income streams and ensure that there is more resiliency in their organisations and the communities surrounding protected areas. This has meant reaching out and engaging with the new enterprises and sectors, opening up the conservation field. There has definitely been more of an awakening in the global community with regards to the importance of conservation and how humanity’s continued impact in the natural world is doing damage to the various systems that we rely upon to survive.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected our African wildlife?
Johan: The short answer is that it is still too early to tell. On one hand, we had an initial decrease in poaching of some species like rhino (due to logistical channels being disrupted by lockdown), but we have seen an increase in bush-meat poaching as people living near wildlife areas search for food due to large job losses across the board.
Global tourism came close to a complete stand still. In what ways has this impacted conservation efforts?
Johan: We are seeing the protection of wildlife and the management of protected areas being heavily impacted by the loss of revenue through tourism and other channels. This means that the increased poaching is more difficult to manage and prevent. In some community owned wildlife conservancies there is an increase in livestock grazing into the conservancies as community members try, optimise and grow their herds due to lost tourism revenue – with this activity increasing conflict encounters with predators and competition for wildlife with livestock.
Wildlife ACT is looking forward to welcoming back (sustainable) tourism soon
What about the negative impact of Covid-19 on wildlife conservation in Africa?
Johan: The negative impact has been massive, and the aftershock will be long lived. As an organisation, Wildlife ACT depends heavily on our conservation tourism model to ensure our ongoing monitoring programs. With lockdowns all around the world bringing international travel to a halt, Wildlife ACT had to make serious budget cuts, develop innovative fundraising initiatives and rely heavily on our support base.
Surely, there must be a ray of hope despite the difficult situation?
Johan: Looking for positives is hard in these times, but we have been forced to innovate and do more with less. A heart-warming realisation has been the overwhelming support received by our Wildlife ACT community at large: From offers to help to donations big and small, we have been able to weather the Covid-19 storm due in most part due to our amazing support base.
Despite the impact of Covid-19, the conservation work in Africa never stops, Photo Credit: Wildlife ACT
What are the next steps for Wildlife ACT and how can one get involved?
Johan: Even during lockdown, Wildlife ACT has never stopped the important conservation work we do in the field each day: We remain committed to saving Africa’s endangered wildlife, and supporting communities living in and around protected areas. People can get involved in support of our mission in a number of ways. A few options include:
- Joining us on social media as we inspire and educate people about Africa’s amazing wildlife and the work we do to save our natural heritage
- Signing up for one of our online conservation training courses
- Joining us as a volunteer for an unforgettable, multiple award winning conservation experience
Sustainability is important to you? By travelling with Rhino Africa, you automatically support various wildlife conservation initiatives. You want to lend a hand and track wild dogs, dehorn rhinos and monitor sea turtles yourself? No problem, our experienced travel experts look forward to planning your personalised conservation experience. Help minimising the impact of Covid-19 on Africa’s wildlife! We look forward to welcoming you in Africa!
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