We are beginning to see the impacts of covid-19 on on conservation efforts, and thankfully in some places it’s not too bad

Between the sudden loss of virtually all tourists, and the removal of game rangers and wildlife guides, there has been an alarming spike in the amount of poaching that has been going on in Mozambique (among other destinations). One of the problems with covid-19 is it has essentially ended much of the formal economy. For a variety of reasons one of the easiest things to turn to to when the formal economy collapses is poaching for sale to people in your local vicinity.

As with the horrific poaching of elephants in the Selous in the last decade, it also hit the Niassa reserve across the border in Mozambique. In total Mozambique lost around 48% of its wild elephants. Thankfully elephant poaching in Mozambique was largely booked to an end by mid 2019.  One of the issues with poaching, is that the poachers of generally well armed, and therefore their presents makes tourism dangerous. This reduces the money coming from the wild area and therefore increases the pressure on locals to use the area for hunting instead.

Across Africa and elsewhere that has been an increase in the amount of poaching rhinos, though for various reasons this is being kept relatively low. One is that a lockdown has closed down the routes that these horns would have been taken on, so they cannot be got out of the country or profited from. A second reason is that with the last shutdown of the the formal economy many of the poaching gangs have resorted to running alcohol and tobacco as these markets have been shut down during the covid-19 lockdown.

Elephant poaching that doesn’t generally take place in the same past has fared far worse,they have been far more elephants killed recently than in normal times.Having said that with elephants the biggest concern is to lose ground won recently-we do not want to go back to the poaching rates between 2010 and 2014. the ivory markets the illegal are doing fantastic business in China and Vietnam and they are using the reduction in the number of rangers to increase their supply of raw ivory.list of course is bad for the countries that were hosting the elephants, as they have to try to stop the poaching from killing off the reason tourists come to their country

Pangolin poaching as with elephant and rhino has been affected by the pandemic, however it is thought to be far less positive. Pangolins are small, and therefore it is perfectly possible  to stockpile hundreds of tons of pangolin scales,to be shipped to Asia when the lockdown lifts. As with many other poaching problems, the best long-term solution is the education in the markets these goods are destined for. There has been much success in places like China where are far fewer people want rhino horn then they did in the past.a similar effort must be made on penguins before any of the 8 species are wiped out permanently.

In Colombia a careful study of jaguars being hunted by humans has seen a dramatic increase this year. Usually Columbia loses 4 or 5 animals in a full year but by July they had already lost 7 this year. It is likely that jaguar hunting has increased across it’s range even if we do not have data from any other places it lives.Bolivia is usually a hub for jaguar parts to be sold, however we have no idea what is going on because the people monitoring the situation have had to withdraw during the outbreak.

Giraffe poaching has had its biggest incident in Uganda for quite some time with 7 killed in one national park.

Encouragingly, national park workers within the Mozambique borders have recognised the need for looking after the people who surround their reserves and have done wonderful work in supporting the community during the covid-19 outbreak.

Let us hope that this enlightened attitude in Mozambique is copied around the world.

It is essential that as the situation recovers tourists return to Mozambique and other wild places, if they are to remain wild into the future.

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