What are the Impacts of COVID-19 on Wildlife Conservation in Africa?

In Africa, COVID-19 pandemic stages potential threats to wildlife conservation and resources. In this blog, we examine the risks and impacts faced by wildlife sectors due to the pandemic. Of great concern is the loss of revenue generated through tourism, which negatively influences the management of wildlife habitats and species. In other words, loss of tourism revenues leads to a reduction in the conservation capacity of various agencies due to inadequate funding. Additionally, loss of tourism revenues leads to an undermined efficacy of conservation to compete with other economic activities that are damaging ecologically.

Here is a list of impacts of COVID-19 on wildlife conservation in Africa:


What are the Impacts of COVID-19 on Wildlife Conservation in Africa - Safarihub

Wildlife management areas (WIMA) in Africa serve the purpose of wildlife conservation outside the main protected areas while buffering against human impacts, thus enhancing economic development in rural areas. The establishment of WIMA has been done with an intention to achieve Community Based Conservation (CBC) which was initiated in the 1990s. Through wildlife management areas, different local communities are obliged to manage wildlife resources and participate in deriving economic benefits through both non-consumptive and consumptive use.

The received economic benefits have continually acted as the main incentive encouraging people to uphold conservation efforts and cease undertaking illegal and resource damaging activities. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an economic recession, which has imposed serious threats to the existing wildlife management areas and the whole WIMA concept.

There have been inadequate financial resources due to reduced incentives for conservation through WIMA, which has led to insufficient wildlife management activities such as improvement of infrastructure and law enforcement. COVID-19 has also led to increasing in subsistence poaching by local communities because there are reduced patrols in conservation areas, and an increase in economic hardships.


What are the Impacts of COVID-19 on Wildlife Conservation in Africa - Safarihub

In most African countries, the tourism sector has been one of the leading employers. The workforce required is massive, often ranging between 40-45% of Africa’s workforce. Because Africa is not fully a developed continent, there is a lack of the required social protection coverage and strategies to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Within the rural areas, there are limited strategies for livelihood, which may encourage involvement in criminal activities such as deforestation and wildlife poaching.

Tourism plays a vital role in the creation of employment globally. Africa is no exception. However, the current outbreak of COVID-19 has led to business and travel restrictions which have, in turn, led to a decline in employment opportunities. Such loss of jobs may reverberate through the wildlife conservation sector as potential threats to habitats and animal species. The majority of unemployed persons may decide to engage in deforested and wildlife poaching as coping strategies against economic hardships. Nevertheless, unemployment may ruin the support of the residents in wildlife conservation initiatives.


What are the Impacts of COVID-19 on Wildlife Conservation in Africa - Safarihub

The revenue used in compensating people and communities living around conservation centers is generated through tourism. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, such revenues have reduced significantly. It implies that most people would resolve to direct the killing of wildlife in case of any damages caused in their farms. Due to a lack of revenues, there is the limited ability of conservation agencies to cope with human-wildlife conflicts. Such a situation poses risk to the game and enhances poor relations between wildlife authorities and communities.


What are the Impacts of COVID-19 on Wildlife Conservation in Africa - Safarihub

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, there have been more calls globally urging for a ban on wild animals’ trade, consumption, and wet markets of live animals because there is a belief that the wild animals are the source of current COVID and possible source of future pandemics. Such bans are likely to cause a shortage in employment and increase economic hardships in the livelihood of people in indigenous and rural settings.


What are the Impacts of COVID-19 on Wildlife Conservation in Africa - Safarihub

For the purposes of effective decision-making and sourcing vital information used in addressing conservation challenges, wildlife research is crucial. Africa’s diverse and exceptional wildlife habitats and species attract many wildlife researchers, both foreign and local. Such research is often done under themes such as infrastructure development and natural resources governance, ecological interactions and wildlife ecology, wildlife diseases and health, climatic change, and ecosystem dynamics, etc.

However, the current COVID-19 outbreak has led to travel restrictions and lockdowns, which have in turn halted most of the wildlife research in Africa. As such, the contribution of wildlife research has been greatly undermined. There are many funding institutions that have currently closed, limiting the chances of researchers obtaining wildlife research funds. It is therefore not clear whether such organizations will support the funding in the future, but the future funding will depend on the economic hardships experienced by such organizations.

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