Poachers Killing More Animals as Coronavirus Cripples Africa Tourism

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The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the global economy and is causing an increase of animal killings via poaching in Africa.

As African tourism is brought to a halt, poachers are becoming emboldened — and hunting animals in travel hot spots that are normally safe havens for protected animals but are now devoid of visitors.

Image: Michael Sheehan/Shutterstock

Although there are still rangers roaming the reserves, the loss of safari guides and tourist vehicles in the parks provide poachers a significant advantage to move around freely.

“They are professional and adept at running off with rhino horns in minutes and dodging security forces. They are masters at evading detection,” Map Ives, founder of Rhino Conservation Botswana, told CNBC. “It’s a bloody calamity. It’s an absolute crisis.”

While the pandemic is making killing easier for poachers, it’s also making things more difficult for organizations that are trying to protect the animals.

Ryan Tate, the founder of VETPAW, a group of American military veterans dedicated to fighting off poachers in South Africa, has been unable to return to his reserve during the crisis because of travel restrictions.

“It’s a helpless feeling,” Tate told CNBC. “Poaching doesn’t stop just because there’s a virus — if anything, it picks up.”

Field mission with VETPAW, a group of post 9/11 US veterans with combat skills who are committed to protecting and training park rangers to combat poaching on the ground in Africa. [Photo: VETPAW]

During the pandemic, donations have been drying up for these protective organizations which may lead to even more reduced patrols.

Africa’s tourism industry, along with national park fees and safari rides, has been vital in funding wildlife conservation efforts but national parks are losing revenue and even shutting down temporarily.

If the economy continues to decline, unemployment will increase and more people may become desperate enough to turn to poaching.

Since the shutdown, at least six rhinos have been poached in Botswana and nine have been killed in northwest South Africa.

Image: Gustavo Frazao/Shutterstock

The black rhino population has plummeted 97.6% since 1960 and the lion population is down 43% in the last 21 years, according to World Wildlife Fund. At least 35,000 African elephants are killed each year and only 1,000 mountain gorillas and 2,000 Grevy’s zebras remain on the continent.

We believe so much in what VETPAW is doing that we donated $200,000 to their efforts. Visit their site to learn more about how you can help.

Check out this video we made about the war against poaching…

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(Cover image: mezzotint/Shutterstock)

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