Wildlife conservation efforts cannot be a victim of the pandemic
Prince William greets Tusk Trust finalists | Credit: Nick Maughan Foundation
The devastating impact of COVID-19 has been felt far and wide, not least in the African conservation space where crucial conservation efforts continue to be disrupted. Now more than ever, those men and women working on the frontlines of conservation need our support.
Africa is home to almost 2,000 key biodiversity areas as well as the world’s most diverse large mammal populations.
Every year, Africa’s wildlife-based tourism generates over US$29 billion and employs 3.6 million people. These funds generate revenue for state wildlife authorities, while diversifying economies and ensuring food security for local communities.
We must grasp the opportunity to drive Covid-19’s threat to wildlife conservation right up the global agenda.
In parallel, donor contributions to conservation efforts account for 32% of protected area funding, rising to 70-90% in certain countries.
That is why next year is expected to be one of the hardest years for African wildlife protected by conservation organisations. A sudden loss of income has prompted severe budget and staff cuts, reduced salaries and the postponement of development and education projects.
I am immensely proud that the Nick Maughan Foundation is supporting Tusk, a charity dedicated to building a sustainable future for the African continent and its wildlife.
Tusk seeks to amplify the impact of conservation initiatives across the continent by partnering with local organisations to accelerate and deliver innovative conservation solutions.
However, without the necessary funds, Tusk’s ability to protect wildlife and endangered species and help alleviate poverty amongst rural communities living alongside wildlife, is severely undermined.
That is why this week I have committed £1m over five years to support Tusk’s fantastic conservation initiatives across the African continent.
There is no denying economic hardship in the region will continue to be felt, as it will across the world. Such hardship may force communities to resort to illegal poaching and further the illegal wildlife trade – a trade that has been deemed one of the world’s most lucrative black markets by the Global Environment Facility.
Estimates range from $7bn to $23bn in terms of annual revenues but it is difficult to provide specifics given the covert nature of such dealings.
If COVID-19 continues on its current destructive trajectory, a decline in domestic movement and tourism income may render governments incapable of mounting viable anti-poaching operations, with many local communities having to resort to such methods in order to survive.
But it is not all doom and gloom. Next month, the 2020 Tusk Conversation Awards – originally launched by HRH the Duke of Cambridge in 2013 – will be taking place, to celebrate the work of leading conservationists across the African continent.
The Nick Maughan Foundation’s support has helped to more than double the conservation grants given to the winners and finalists of the Awards.
My hope is that these expanded grants will go some way towards countering Covid’s disruptive impact on African conservation.
This year’s finalists really do highlight the wonderful work that is taking place throughout Africa.
The Wildlife Ranger Award, for example, which the Foundation is sponsoring, celebrates the achievements of individuals on the front line of conservation efforts in Africa – game scouts, game guards, wildlife trackers, wildlife monitors, both uniformed and non-uniformed.
Too often, these individuals are the unsung heroes of conservation efforts.
Now more than ever, those men and women working on the frontlines of conservation need our support. Charities like Tusk are doing exemplary work, raising funds and awareness, to ensure their efforts do not become yet another casualty of the pandemic.
Supporting wildlife conservation is key tenet of saving our planet’s biodiversity.
As Britain assumes global leadership on environmental issues in the lead-up to next year’s COP26, we must grasp the opportunity to drive Covid-19’s threat to wildlife conservation right up the global agenda.