Hamna Taraq Butt
Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic affected the environment, placing a strain on economy and all parts of human society. The effects of COVID-19 are inevitable. COVID-19 pandemic affected virtually all sectors and the biodiversity conservation sector at local, regional and global levels. Its effects on biodiversity conservation are many and either negative or positive in form, but the negative impact outweighed the positive one. In the same vein as the previous disease outbreaks, COVID-19 led to the inability to manage the protected areas and carry out conservation programs because of the total lockdown. The effects include.Loss of Skilled Personnel and Funds: Economically, pandemics imposes high financial costs on both government and conservation organization. The highly trained staff lost to a pandemic is devastating in developing countries where conservation capacity is limited. For instance, 40 Rangers experienced job losses in the Mara Nabisco Conservancy in Kenya because of the pandemic on tourism revenues used to pay their salaries. In the same vein, Waithaka (2020) confirmed the loss of employment and livelihood among the protected area staff in most African countries because of 60-100 per cent tourism revenue loss. Therefore, the training cost for the newly employed will be high.Ineffective and Lukewarm Staff: Absenteeism will be on the rise among the personnel. Psychologically, staff members will choose to care for their sick relatives than going to work. For instance, many protected areas in Nepal, Africa, Latin America and other parts of Asia experienced poor attendance by workers because of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. This personnel attitude led to an increased number of poaching incidents, deforestation, bushmeat consumption and wildlife loss in Uganda and Cambodia during the lockdown period in the year 2020.Weakened Performance in the Protected Area: Practically, there will be little or no management/supervision of patrols for the superior officers to mandate patrol are all home with their family because of the lockdown. Therefore, the rangers will not be effective in patrols around the park and making it possible for poachers neighboring the PAs to gain easy access and poach the wildlife resources. In Africa, 57 per cent of the countries reported the pandemic affected conducting regular field patrols in the protected areas during the lockdown period in the year 2020. Contrarily, the number of Rangers’ patrols increased in 14 popular European National and Nature Parks during and after the first and second local restrictions because of the provision of personal protective equipment and installing plexiglass barriers in tourism hotspots. Also, an increase in the rate of illnesses and deaths among the protected area rangers, senior officials, game guards, and other conservation bodies’ personnel will weaken their performance in the protected areas. This situation occurs when the wildlife staff finds it difficult to execute their duties and enforce the law when sick. Even the most committed worker will become less or unproductive because of successive bereavement that will undermine their morale and enthusiasm. Poachers will take advantage to hunt wildlife illegally while wildlife staff members are sick, looking after their sick relatives, or attending funerals.Reduced Revenue and Staff Strength: Tourism revenue is the source of funding for protected area agencies. It provides the means for livelihood improvement of local communities and national development through foreign exchange. Loss of tourism revenues in protected areas leads to joblessness through staff dismissal and non-organized monitoring programs. Presently, there is insufficient data on the impact of the COVID-19 on tourism revenues in various countries. The fluctuation of the tourist number in the world can better explain the dynamics of tourism revenue. According to UNWTO (2020), 100 per cent of countries with tourism destinations introduced travel restrictions because of COVID-19, and the pandemic caused a drastic decrease in tourist numbers (290-440 million) at a rate of 20-30 per cent during 2020 globally.Human/Resource Conflict: The effect of lockdown and other pandemic associated factors can cause conflicts and destruction of natural resources. For instance, conflicts will arise when the behavior of local people changes because of difficult livelihood. The inability of rural households to farm and food insecurity leads to increased poverty among the local communities. According to the World Bank (2020), the COVID-19 pandemic will acerbate the poverty of 176 million people worldwide. The high poverty rate will increase the dependence of vulnerable communities and households on natural resources (FAO, 2020). In Thailand, reversed migration to rural areas occurred among those who lost their jobs in the urban area. This migration led to undue pressure on natural resources in protected areas. Also, households that have lost their breadwinners to the course of the pandemic will be alone without an option for meeting their subsistence and income needs. World Bank (2020) stated that pandemic incapacitated productive adults in the household. Therefore, they divert to other available strategies which are unsustainable and ecologically destructive such as the killing of wildlife species and destruction of habitats so as for them to cope.Increase in Local Exploitation: The physical environment is also affected as many plants and animals exploited. During this present pandemic (COVID-19), many wild animals species killed by the locals for consumption. The pandemics have also aroused the beliefs of susceptible households in countries with biodiversity-rich ecosystem resulting in land clearing, illegal logging and mining. This belief change contributed to the overexploitation of biodiversity resources for their survival. For instance, the forest clearing in the Brazilian Amazon increased by 34 per cent during the pandemic in 2020. Besides, natural resources extracted for traditional medicines. On a quest to find treatments for the pandemic and related chronic diseases by traditional healers, concoctions made from parts of wild animals and some forest trees. This method of treating pandemic can cause harm to the environment. According to Somerville (2020), the illegal harvest of Rhinoceros (Dicerosbicornis and Ceratotheriumsimum) increased in Botswana because of the high demand for its horn to treat the COVID-19 virus in traditional Chinese medicine.Lack of Research, Assessment, and Monitoring on Biodiversity: The inability to conduct research and or identify the changes (lost and or movement of new species into an ecosystem) in the elements of biological diversity through monitoring programmes in a protected landscape speed up the rates of loss. Lockdown and social distancing because of the pandemic will inhibit rangers and other conservation scientists to provide information on the trends in primary species and other aspects of PAs. Many research, internship/industrial training in wildlife/biodiversity conservation disrupted. Researchers can no longer conduct field-based social research that requires interviews or focus groups because of the possibility of disease transmission. The continuing shortage of funds can be the fundamental barrier to biodiversity assessment and more effective monitoring programmes in Africa. This fund shortage acerbates the unprecedented global recession driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the absence of such informative data, the missed research means missed opportunities to identify conservation priorities, monitor the health of endangered species and ecosystems, and provide practical solutions for the protection and sustainable use of resources on which human well-being depends.COVID-19 pandemic remains a threat to biodiversity conservation through tourism revenue loss in PAs. The financial loss affects the budget, population monitoring/assessment programmes, and job loss to negative human behavior that drives human-wildlife conflicts and natural resources destruction. Pollution and poaching activities may increase or decrease depending on accessibility to locals and vehicular restriction to long-distant poachers. In conclusion, there is a need to end illegal wildlife trade globally to prevent future pandemic and biodiversity loss.
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