Peace Parks and the pandemic
COVID-19 has once again reminded us of how important it is to respect all life and that nature has a way of fighting back if we keep on ignoring the many and clear warning signs all around us. Peace Parks has always worked towards one clear goal: to reconnect Africa’s wild spaces to create a future for man in harmony with nature. Increasingly, as intact habitats are lost to human encroachment, species continue to go extinct, and more and more wildlife is removed from its natural environment; we are creating the perfect conditions for another global catastrophe to take place. Zoonotic diseases, which are transferred from wild animals to people, are not a new phenomena and, unfortunately, COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic that will have severe health and economic consequences at a global scale. We are all connected and we are all in this together.
If we can conquer boundaries to re-establish, renew and preserve large functional ecosystems, we can ensure that there is a place for humans and a place for animals to co-exist on Earth – safely and sustainably.
Werner Myburgh, Peace Parks Foundation CEO
Despite COVID-19 lockdowns instituted at varying levels across many countries in southern Africa, our operational work is fortunately still continuing, although limited in some cases.
Whilst much success has been achieved in unlocking opportunities for communities to derive equitable benefits from conservation and related nature-based economies, COVID-19 threatens to reverse progress that took decades to achieve. Critical intervention was needed – as swiftly and as widespread as possible. The first critical step was to implement measures to protect the lives of people. To this end, Peace Parks combined $100 000 of its own resources with generous donor funding to distribute more than 50 000 items – that included masks, soap, sanitisers, wash stations, oxygen concentrators and regulators, humidifiers, isolation gowns, disposable aprons, goggles, surgical gloves, and non-contact thermometers – to vulnerable communities and health care services in areas where we have an operational footprint. A second vital step was to look at the potentially far-reaching economic consequences of the pandemic and mitigate these by preserving the livelihoods of the communities. To assist in easing the effect of job-related casualties, Peace Parks is implementing programmes that offer assistance to communities through cash-for-work interventions in the Great Limpopo, Kavango Zambezi and Malawi-Zambia transfrontier conservation areas. Funding will also compensate for park revenue losses due to border closures and loss of tourism.
Activities in parks are slowly resuming, with a key focus still on continuing core operations, protection and anti-poaching activities unabated, with response helicopters and surveillance aircraft, funded by Peace Parks, remaining fully operational. Indications show that due to the worsening economy, the killing of wildlife for illicit trade and meat markets will escalate and we will now need to be more vigilant than ever. With so many other pressing global concerns – animals and wildlife without a voice will suffer the most.
Access to head office premises is once again permitted, but under strict control measures and in limited numbers. We have rapidly adapted to working from home with most staff members continuing to work in this ‘new normal’ mode.