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Conservation in Crisis: Ecotourism Collapse Threatens Communities and Wildlife

By The Guardian

From the vast plains of the Masai Mara in Kenya to the delicate corals of the Aldabra atoll in the Seychelles, conservation work to protect some of the world’s most important ecosystems is facing crisis following a collapse in ecotourism during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Organisations that depend on visitors to fund projects for critically endangered species and rare habitats could be forced to close, according to wildlife NGOs, after border closures and worldwide travel

restrictions abruptly halted millions of pounds of income from tourism.

Throughout the pandemic, scientists have repeatedly urged humanity to reset its relationship with nature or suffer worse outbreaks. But the economic consequences of the Covid-19 lockdown have raised fears of a surge in poaching, illegal fishing and deforestation in life-sustaining ecosystems, with tens of thousands of jobs in the ecotourism sector at risk around the world.

“It’s right that the global focus now is on protecting human lives in this devastating pandemic. However, in the places we work, we are already witnessing its economic impact, particularly in areas where communities rely heavily on ecotourism for their livelihoods,” said Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF UK.


'We did it to ourselves': scientist says intrusion into nature led to pandemic
 
In Cambodia, three critically endangered giant ibis were killed for meat in early April following the collapse of the local tourism industry, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. In central Africa, measures to shield mountain gorillas from the virus have resulted in a slump in vital visitor revenue. Twelve rangers who guarded Virunga national park, where the gorillas live, were killed in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo last month.

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