The COVID-19 pandemic has had a sobering impact on global nature conservation, with Africa and Asia the most severely affected, according to new research papers published in PARKS, the journal of the IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas.
More than half of protected areas in Africa reported that they were forced to halt or reduce field patrols and anti-poaching operations as well as conservation education and outreach, the IUCN said. That’s meant job losses for about 20 percent of wildlife rangers from the 60 countries surveyed worldwide, and reduced or delayed pay for another 25 percent.
Kenya is among the few nations that included protecting nature in their COVID stimulus plans, and other nations have kept their funding for Protected and Conserved Areas (PCAs) intact, but they’ve been rolled back in at least 22 countries.
“While the global health crisis remains priority, this new research reveals just how severe a toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on conservation efforts and on communities dedicated to protecting nature,” said IUCN head Dr. Bruno Oberle. “Let us not forget that only by investing in healthy nature can we provide a solid basis for our recovery from the pandemic, and avoid future public health crises.”
The research package includes 11 peer-reviewed papers, as well as opinion articles by Oberle, Tanzanian biodiversity expert Elizabeth Maruma Mrema and others.
“What we learnt from our 150 contributors is this: If the shock of COVID-19 is not enough to make humanity wake up to the suicidal consequences of the destructive course of much misguided development, with its onslaught on nature, then it is hard to see how further calamities—far worse than the current pandemic— can be avoided,” said IUCN’s Brent Mitchell, a co-editor of the special edition of PARKS.
Image: IUCN/Forrest Hogg, Wildlife Conservation Society