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As borders closed this past month in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19, Africa’s $39 billion tourism industry and the conservation projects that rely on its revenues have come to a sudden halt. Environmentalists fear that huge losses in conservation funds and potentially increased poaching may lead to disastrous effects for threatened and endangered animals (Reuters).


Many African countries, including South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, and Kenya, depend on revenue from tourism to fund wildlife conservation. In South Africa, 85% of funding for the South Africa National Parks system came from the tourism industry in 2018 (New York Times). The lack of tourists has led many wildlife industries to begin laying off employees or cutting pay. In Thailand, leaders of elephant sanctuaries find themselves short on food for elephants, yet unable to lay off staff or let elephants go since their elephants cannot survive in the wild (Reuters).


Experts fear that with the loss of salaries, communities may have to turn to bush meat poaching in order to survive (Reuters). In South Africa and Botswana, leaders of nonprofits including Rhino 911 and Rhino Conservation Botswana have already noticed unprecedented poaching of rhinos in tourism hotspots that, until now, rarely saw poaching of wildlife. Without tourists and tour guides to help monitor millions of acres of wilderness, animals like rhinos and elephants become more vulnerable to poaching (New York Times).