Dangers facing wildlife during Coronavirus pandemic
The outbreak of Coronavirus has not only affected human life but wildlife too with animals in both protected and unprotected areas facing several life-threatening challenges.
Following the spread of Coronavirus worldwide, like in other parts of the world, the Uganda Wildlife Authority responded by closing all national parks to all tourist activities in order to protect the animals from contracting Coronavirus.
However, the closure of the parks his causing far reaching effects to both animals and people especially those who were employed in the tourism industry. Problems brought about by Coronavirus that are affecting wildlife and the tourism industry at large include the following;
The problem of poaching has been brought about by several factors during the pandemic. Firstly, the poachers are taking advantage that animals are no longer monitored as frequent as it used to be before the pandemic. The time rangers used to spend among animals was reduced in order to minimize the chances of spreading the virus to animals through human contact. Secondly, some people have resorted to poaching after following the loss of income they used to earn while tourist activities were going on. These include those who used to do casual jobs like porters, local guides and those living in tourist-supported communities around national parks.
Disease and traps
The number of animal doctors and researchers who used to check on animals on a daily basis to ensure their well-being as also reduced in a measure to limit their exposure to the human coronavirus. This left the animals like mountain gorillas more exposed to other natural calamities like disease and traps from poachers. In addition to reducing the number of the animal vets, the time they spend with the animals was also reduced hence leaving the animals more exposed to several dangers.
Military attacks on rangers
Rangers in wildlife protecting areas with civil conflicts like in eastern Democratic republic of Congo (DRC) have been exposed to military attacks from some rebel groups operating in such areas. The militias are using the opportunity of reduced security surveillance during the pandemic to launch attacks on rangers in the forests. Killing of rangers means leaving animals exposed to their life-threatening problems like poaching.
Risk of spreading coronavirus to the animals
As the world is still battling with the coronavirus pandemic, you cannot rule out the possibility of the virus spreading to the animals. Although all national parks were closed to tourists, other groups including vets, researchers and rangers continue to visit the animals to ensure their welfare. This proves that in the event, anyone among these who may have contracted the virus may end up spreading to the animals. Some animals especially primates like gorillas and chimps are very susceptible to human viruses related illnesses and hence there is big fear that once they contract the coronavirus, it can turn to be so catastrophic in their community.
Reduced wildlife funding
The suspension of safaris to tourist destinations means that no more money is coming in. This means lack of funds to be allocated for wildlife including their medical care, security and facilitating those who look after them. This is feared to have some negative effects that may retard the development of the tourism industry at large.
Loss of employment in the tourism sector
The tourism sector in Uganda and Africa at large employs many people who work in different departments of the sector to earn a living. Now that tourism is one of the sectors most affected by the pandemic, the chances of these people retaining their jobs are hanging on a thread. Those most likely to be affected include tour operators, tour guides, hotel operators, and those employed in national parks.