Conservation in the time of Coronavirus

The discussions forming around Covid-19 and the potential involvement of animal trafficking as a root cause have the potential to herald significant benefits for the protection of wildlife worldwide. However the conservation sector, like many others, is taking a hit from the global pandemic. Research assistant Phoebe Thorpe writes…

I am sure most of you are now very much aware of the current Covid-19 pandemic. But what does that mean for wildlife conservation projects?

For our research efforts here at DMAD, the new coronavirus has caused a few setbacks. We had to make the tough decision to send our wonderful volunteers and interns in Montenegro back to their home countries. It is no longer feasible nor safe for us to carry out surveys. The majority of wildlife projects, just like ours, have had to make the same sacrifices. 
There are a huge number of organisations, ours included, that are funded in some way by contributions from volunteers and interns who come to support the research of the project and learn from their teams. Many of these are now having to ask for online donations so that their projects can survive. Whereas DMAD’s project focuses day-to-day on data collection of wild animals, numerous wildlife projects protect semi-wild or rescued animals that still need to be cared for despite funding shortages and global pandemics. An example of this is projects seeking to protect Asian elephants, who must try to fundraise in order to have enough money to care for the animals. BBC News has published an article discussing the fate of Thai elephants at this time. In the article they interview Kerri McCrea, who is cofounder of Kindred Spirits Elephant Sanctuary. She explains how she and the villagers not only care for the project’s elephants, but also over 70 others that have been brought from tourist camps in the cities to their village. At first glance it does seem like great news that the elephants are out of captivity, but this puts a lot of strain on the organisation in terms of care, resources, and money.
Elephant sanctuaries and other projects caring for wildlife will be amongst the hardest hit by funding cuts during covid
Other news stories which have hit headlines about Covid-19 and wildlife are the discussions around the ban of wildlife trafficking and live animal markets. Shenzhen is the first Chinese city to ban cat and dog markets. The pandemic has brought tragedy with the loss of lives, yet we can look at these stories with the view point that there is some light coming out of Covid-19 and that we can celebrate these little wins for wildlife. 
Chris Packham expressed his concern to the BBC that amidst the talk and chaos of Covid-19 we may lose momentum in fighting long term issues such as climate change and loss of biodiversity. Here at DMAD we share a similar worry and so we have made sure we are doing all we can to conserve our planet. Our founder and managers have been catching up with data analysis, reading and writing scientific reports, and creating online software training lessons for our interns. Our interns are still advancing their skills in software, reading up on key marine mammal articles and reports, and practicing how they would carry out their own project all from the comfort of home.
We also want all of you to know that you can still contribute to helping wildlife from home. Here are a number of suggestions from the DMAD team! 
  1. Take an online course in scientific computer software  
  2. Get involved with projects looking for help in identifying species remotely
  3. Listen to podcasts 
  4. Watch documentaries 
  5. Read articles, books and blogs 
  6. Approach projects to see if you can help with their social media and websites
  7. Pick up litter on your walks
  8. Use eco-friendly cleanering products, recycle, create less food and packaging waste 
  9. Talk to people and spread your knowledge about how to help the environment (preferebaly online or from a safe social distance…!)
We hope that this post has brough a little insight into how Covid-19 has affected wildlife conservation projects, and that even during an uncertain time there are some good news stories and that you know that you can still make an impact on helping the environment from home! For some further inspiration on how to get involved from #quarantine, have a look at The Jane Goodall Institue and, and stay up to date with our social media where we’ll be posting further ideas from our interns!