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Wildlife experts have alerted The Independent that a global conservation “crisis” is unfolding as the disruption caused by Covid-19 causes a feared surge in the poaching of species for the illegal wildlife trade.
India, Nepal and Pakistan and several African countries have all reported a poaching spike. In Botswana, it is warned, as many as 10 per cent of the country’s 500 rhinoceroses may have been wiped out since March.
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A number of wildlife protection programmes have been curtailed due to the abrupt halt of tourism revenue as a result of Covid-19, leaving endangered animals more vulnerable than ever to slaughter.
Lockdown restrictions have also limited the ability of conservationists and wildlife rangers to monitor many poaching hotspots.
Trisha Ghose, project director of not-for-profit The Habitats Trust, warned of a 151 per cent increase in poaching in some parts of India.
“Species are being systematically wiped out by organised trade networks,” she said, “with new poaching techniques and trade routes emerging faster than we can respond to them.”
Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, founder of Conservation Through Public Health, told The Independent that great apes in East Africa were also potentially under threat: “Poaching levels have gone up so much. Normally poachers would not go near the gorillas because they fear getting caught.”
Map Ives, of Rhino Conservation Botswana, said of the post-Covid-19 situation: “It’s a bloody calamity. It’s an absolute crisis.”
The revelation of the potential scale of the conservation crisis caused by the pandemic shows the urgency of The Independent’s Stop The Illegal Wildlife Trade campaign.