(CNN) – Two decades ago, Rosa María Ruiz bought 4,000 acres (9,885 acres) of land along the Beni River, near the small village of Rurrenabaque, with the aim of transforming it from a Bolivian Amazon cut into a thriving private reserve of life. wild.
Rosa María Ruiz has spent decades fighting to protect the Bolivian Amazon.
Courtesy Madidi Travel
It’s a situation faced by highly respected conservation projects around the developing world, who have spent a lot during 2020 navigating the new reality of trying to protect wildlife while dealing with Covid fiscal results -19.
The Serere Eco-Reserve in Bolivia has not welcomed visitors since March 23.
Courtesy Madidi Travel
Wildlife tourism: An industry at risk
In the early days of the pandemic, the internet got bored with stories of feral pigs in Barcelona, pumas in the Chilean capital Santiago and dolphins in the canals of Venice (the latter was fake viral news). Animals seem to be flourishing in the era of coronavirus blockages.
These stories of the “good news” of freely roaming animals were what we all coveted at the time, but they upset a more unfortunate reality.
Tourism has been the fragile pillar on which thousands of conservation projects have stood for decades, helping to protect wildlife, trafficked animals and refugees, to restore vital habitats and to educate the public about sustainability. When that pillar collapsed overnight amid global travel bans, the system collapsed.
Wildlife reserves in the developing world, unlike U.S. National Parks at the moment, are empty. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a good thing for animals.
Not only does the presence of eco-tourists keep hunters and hunters at bay, but also in their well-managed reserves, their funds, veterinary programs and animal rescue centers in parts of the globe that do not have strong systems of public park.
It also provides a vital source of income for rural and dispersed communities.
This revenue has virtually evaporated as a result of Covid-19, leaving animals – and those who care for and depend on them – at risk.
Most of the elephants at the Elephant Conservation Center in Sayaboury, Laos, were rescued from the logging or tourism industry.
Begging for money
About 85% of ECC revenue comes from paid visitors and volunteers, who spend about $ 110 a day on multi-day educational stays, which do not include invasive riding or animal bathing.
“I was quite happy with the ECC business model because we were kind of independent of donor money thanks to this revenue generated by tourists,” explains founder Sebastien Duffillot. “Going back to begging for money is not ideal as funds are not so easy to get these days and the tourism model was much more stable.”
A runner on a hijacking patrol in Kenya’s Mara triangle holds the items he has collected.
To help stop hunting, fund a shooter
Africa has been most affected by the sudden decline of ecotourism. About 67 million tourists visited the continent in 2018, according to the UN World Tourism Organization, with many attractive from the chance to go on a once in a lifetime safari.
“Not only should hotels and lodges have to close their doors, but think about the impact this has had on the people who are involved in these industries,” she added. “This means that chefs, drivers, hotel staff, craft vendors, rankers – all of these people who depend on visitors have no income and they can be the main source of income for their whole family.” “
Shattuck says without extra eyes in the continent’s parks, some communities have been drawn into the hunt out of desperation. They are not targeting elephants and rhinos, she explains, but are creating traps for other meats that they can sell or use to feed their families.
Cheetahs, among the most endangered by big cats in the world, roam the Mara Triangle in Maasai Mara, Kenya.
Signs of silver clothing
However, there are some signs of hope on the horizon.
Across the ecotourism industry, Shattuck says she has seen an increase in partial financial resource allocation where companies will add a mandatory fee (per guest, per night) that goes directly to conservation efforts.
“The goal is to protect the communities that protect these natural habitats,” she says. “So if you had to cancel your $ 5,000 safari, you could have an extra $ 50 in your pocket today to make sure that when you go next year, the place is still intact.”
Governments have been so preoccupied with the Covid-19 human emergency that there has been little investment in the natural emergency. However, the two are deeply connected.
Coronavirus is caused by the transmission of zoonotic disease, which occurs most often when wildlife come into close contact with each other and humans. There is a greater potential for this in wildlife markets and in human-animal conflicts such as pruning.
By protecting wildlife and their natural habitats, we can simply protect ourselves from the next pandemic.