Orphaned rhinos are seen amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a sanctuary for rhinos orphaned by poaching, in Mookgopong, Limpopo province, South Africa April 17, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

The coronavirus pandemic is impacting wildlife in more ways than one, with some species thriving and others placed at a higher risk.

Various regions are seeing an uptick in baby animals being rescued, which is being attributed to an increase in people working from home and noticing distressed animals in their yards or on walks. The Nebraska Wildlife Group is one of many organizations dealing with an influx of rescued animals, reporting that they are on track to hit record numbers in 2020. In addition, people around the world have reported wildlife sightings in urban areas, as animals have greater freedom to roam with fewer people outside.

However, the pandemic has also resulted in decreased funding and attention for groups and governing bodies that protect wildlife from poachers. For example, conservationist Richard Bonham said that “all tourist lodges in and outside the parks [in Kenya] have been closed.” That decrease in tourism due to travel restrictions has had a drastic effect on wildlife vulnerable to poaching. African rhinos are particularly vulnerable, and fewer tourists and reduced staffing for patrols are creating a perfect storm that places animals in harm’s way.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Africa’s endangered wildlife at risk as tourism dries up – Associated Press – 5/15/2020
The armed rangers set off at dusk in pursuit of poachers. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new alertness, and a new fear. With tourists gone and their money, too, protecting endangered wildlife like black rhinos has become that much more challenging. And the poachers, like many desperate to make a living, might become more daring.

Florida: endangered sea turtles thriving thanks to Covid-19 restrictions – The Guardian – 4/19/2020
Marine life researchers in Florida say that coronavirus restrictions keeping humans and harmful waste off beaches are having a beneficial effect on the numbers of endangered leatherback sea turtles in the state.

How big a threat does coronavirus pose to wildlife in Africa? – Al Jazeera – 5/14/2020
Another likely side effect will be an increase in the illegal wildlife trade due to reduced human eyes on poachers funded by criminal syndicates. “The poachers are bound to get emboldened – it’s already happening in Botswana,” Kaddu Sebunya said. “We’re hearing about increases of rhino poaching and more clashes between poachers and security officers, which have resulted in deaths.”

Wildlife rescue expert explains increase for bobcat, mountain lion, coyote sightings in Bay Area amid COVID-19 pandemic – ABC7 San Francisco – 5/11/2020
“We had over 500 calls for animals in distress in April. It was quite startling,” Travis said. […] “We’re not as overwhelming in the environment right now. Humans have taken a step back which has allowed animals to come forward,” says Travis. “There’s a lot of urban wildlife that depends on garbage the food that we leave behind for their food and with us suddenly gone that food source has disappeared.”

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Marco Lambertini on Twitter, 5/14/2020: Despite images of #wildlife re-conquering human spaces during lockdowns, in reality #coronavirus is not good news Let’s learn how to move to a ‘new normal’ with #nature at the heart of society & economy @ipbes@UNBiodiversity⁩ ⁦@TreeHugger

Erik Solheim on Twitter, 5/13/2020: Coronavirus is killing rhinos without even infecting them. With no tourists wildlife in many reserves may be in jeopardy. We need to step up to protect iconic animals

UW News on Twitter, 5/15/2020: Researchers are still hesitant to say the pandemic is definitively causing a change in wildlife, but many people have reported some strange animal behavior recently.

RTE News on Twitter, 5/11/2020: Restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic are impacting wildlife around the world, including in India where authorities say the number of sea turtles hatching on now-deserted beaches is far higher than normal | Read more

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