Interviewee: KAMGA Marc Anselme, Environmental Manager
Interviewer: Atlanta Mahanta, Sr. Multimedia Journalist, THE TIMES OF AFRICA
Q1. What impacts of COVID-19 on the conservation of threatened species have been observed?
A1. The Covid19’s economic, social and health impacts have been globally devastating, to say the least. The frustration conservationists have felt over wildlife markets is now being felt across the world, leading the public to demand change in the global trade of animals. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the closure of many wildlife parks in many countries. With reduced numbers of tourists visiting wildlife parks, there are fewer vehicles driving around to deter poachers. Also, in many parts of Africa, the lack of tourism affects the Anti-Poaching Units. Anti-Poaching Units are mostly funded by the “bed nights’ ‘ occupied by tourists in a safari lodge. No tourism, no “bed nights,” no Anti-Poaching Units protection on that reserve. So this is not good news for the wildlife that desperately needs protection. If an anti-poaching ranger prevents an attack on animals, it means those animals will not be killed and brought into the illegal wildlife trade. This pandemic has disrupted tourism revenue of many countries.
Q2. Has there been an increase in wildlife poaching due to global lockdowns?
A2. In fact, many of the threats facing biodiversity and protected areas have been exacerbated during and following the Covid-19 outbreak. The COVID-19 pandemic has put most people on lockdown all over the world, and many are unemployed. When impoverished people cannot eat or pay bills, they frequently turn to poaching. They either consume the bushmeat themselves or sell more valuable wildlife on the illegal market and that is what is actually happening in Africa. So there is an increase in poaching incidents since the beginning of this pandemic.
Q3. How is COVID-19 affecting indigenous peoples and local communities?
A3. It has been noticed that the coronavirus pandemic presents a new threat to the health and survival of Indigenous peoples and local communities around the world. Indigenous peoples largely fall outside any formal social protection systems and few have access to medical and financial support in times of crisis. In Africa particularly, Indigenous peoples already experience a high degree of socio-economic marginalization and are at disproportionate risk in public health emergencies, becoming even more vulnerable during this global pandemic. They have significantly higher rates of communicable and non-communicable diseases than their non-indigenous counterparts, high mortality rates and lower life expectancies. The contributing factors that increase the potential for high mortality rates caused by COVID-19 in indigenous communities include mal – and undernutrition, poor access to sanitation, lack of clean water, and inadequate medical services. As lockdowns continue in numerous countries in the continent, with no timeline in sight, Indigenous peoples who already face food insecurity, as a result of the loss of their traditional lands and territories, confront even graver challenges in access to food. With the loss of their traditional livelihoods, which are often land-based, many Indigenous peoples who work in traditional occupations and subsistence economies or in the informal sector are negatively affected by the pandemic. The situation of indigenous women, who are often the main providers of food and nutrition to their families, is even critical.
Q4. Your opinion on ZOO culture?
A4. The habitat of human, animals in the ecosystem is naturally interconnected. In my own view ZOO culture is not a sustainable solution to animal conservation. In fact, zoos can’t provide the required space to the animals. I will say those wild animals should not be held in captivity because we have no moral right as a species to let animals suffer just because we are curious about them. Captive breeding is not really effective, yet let’s recognize that, in a world beset by climate change, habitat loss and soaring human numbers, zoos provide protection for the world’s endangered species.
Q5. How do we tackle the conflict between human and wildlife?
A5. Ending the illegal wildlife trade can be a good step for our governments, but whether the illegal wildlife trade is reduced or not, rangers must always be able to protect wildlife. Rangers are the first line of defence against people who want to kill wildlife. More than ever, a new system of management and governance of wildlife is urgent in Africa; one that is able to respond in a systematic and integrated way to this key challenge. The effective integrated management of wildlife will permit the transformation of human lives and significantly reduce conflict. As a continent endowed and dependent on natural resources; sustainability for Africa should be oriented towards restoring landscapes and protecting biodiversity. Nothing short of a revolution in attitudes will suffice in solving the problem. Behavioural change, adopting a conservation lifestyle, increased investment in wildlife protection, political momentum, and concerted local action, are needed to conserve our threatened species.