There are few who can deny the bravery and dedication of the women and men who protect our wildlife as law enforcement officers and rangers. On every patrol, these folk enter a hostile environment to risk their lives from a multitude of threats – from heavily armed poachers to enraged wildlife. For them, COVID-19 has just presented a new and unanticipated threat and stacked the odds in a double jeopardy.
With most of Southern Africa in lock down, tourist revenue has dried up. The safari tourism industry that supports many thousands of employees and their families has had no choice but to cease operations and lay-off staff. IFAW is receiving reports of tourism hubs that a couple of months back were bustling hives of activity that are now ghost towns as the pandemic moves across the region. These are desperate times for all but the increase in unemployment in the safari industry means some are looking for other ways to raise an income to support their families. There are increasing reports of snaring and poaching activities that indicate the unforeseen impact the current pandemic might have on our wildlife.
In truth just by their mere presence, tourists visiting protected areas form an effective surveillance system in curtailing anti-poaching and illegal activities. These two factors of desperate times and empty parks are potentially providing an opportune scenario for criminal elements to capitalize on exploiting the current situation to conduct illegal crimes and placing wildlife under threat. IFAW, in its partnerships with Government Authorities and Wildlife Departments, continues to work tirelessly in supporting these brave rangers and law enforcement officers as they face these unforeseen challenges head-to-head.
In national parks and protected areas there is no lock down for rangers and law enforcers as they continue the daily fight to safeguard precious wildlife.
Your courage, unwavering dedication and belief are an inspiration to all in these times of uncertainty. We salute you!
-Neil Greenwood, Regional Director of Southern Africa