COVID-19's impact on global conservation and why we need your help

by ZSL on

ZSL's Director of Conservation and Policy, Dr. Andrew Terry, addresses the impact of COVID-19 on our global conservation work.

The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed great suffering on many millions of people worldwide. It has exposed harsh inequalities between people both here in the UK and in communities around the world. But it has also brought communities together to address this common challenge and highlighted true resilience and strength to cope and adapt. 

Man standing with trees and historic archetecture in the background

The crisis has hit ZSL hard and our keepers and staff in our Zoos have been performing an amazing job coming into work to care for our animals despite the challenges and risks involved. We have not yet shared the diversity of experiences that staff across the world have had, as they adapted to the current conditions on the ground – so let me give you an overview.

A keeper cleaning Penguin Beach at ZSL London Zoo

Our conservation field work is 90% grant funded and as such we are reviewing each project to assess what is currently possible and what must be deferred or cancelled. In some instances, this work continues unaffected and in others it is having to be completely re-designed.

Field conservation is extremely important now, as we can expect COVID-19 to have driven major impacts on wildlife. We have all heard positive stories of wildlife returning to our cities or responding to the lack of human pressure. But we also expect several major challenges to arise.

Black Rhinoceros

The first is that there are massive human social changes underway as communities move from cities to rural areas and cannot earn incomes as they had done previously. For many, their daily subsistence income has dried up and, based on experience, this often leads to communities having to rely on natural resources a lot more. We can expect greater pressure placed on habitats and wildlife, whether legally or illegally and it is very likely to be unsustainable. In regions where tourism revenues underpin funding for state agencies to protect wildlife, this income has gone, and teams are under huge pressure. In Kenya we continue to support the Kenya Wildlife Service in daily rhino monitoring and security patrols, working closely with our partner Tsavo Trust to ensure that the key black rhino population of Tsavo West is protected. Our field teams are locked down within Tsavo West National Park, and while they continue with their vital conservation work, they are unable to go home or support their families.

Chris and security ranger looking out over Tsavo

In most regions, our community teams are grounded and are unable to provide much needed support to local communities, which cannot continue for much longer. Where possible they are now supporting the village savings and loans associations (VSLAs) that underpin much of our community work, remotely through regular phone calls. In Mongolia restrictions are lighter and our teams have been able to get out and do some work supporting patrols at our wild camel project site in the Great Gobi protected area. This was lucky as they were able to put out a forest fire recently before it spread.

Local community member monitoring in the Gobi Desert

Wildlife monitoring has been continuing in some regions, with the Tiger team in Russia able to review the camera trap footage and complete surveys for this year, highlighting some stunning images of tigers in the region.
To bring some of this diversity to life, we will be sharing articles and videos to Fellows, Patrons and supporters from our field colleagues in the coming weeks. I really hope you are inspired by hearing their experiences first-hand.

It is a difficult time for all of us, however our work in the field is vital to ensuring the protection of wildlife and the survival of these incredible species.If you can help us, please donate now or join as a Fellow to learn more about our work:

Donate now

Become a ZSL Fellow

 

Select a blog

Careers at ZSL

Our people are our greatest asset and we realise our vision for a world where wildlife thrives through their ideas, skills and passion. An inspired, informed and empowered community of people work, study and volunteer together at ZSL.

ZSL London Zoo

A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo, bringing you extraordinary animal facts and exclusive access to the world's oldest scientific zoo.

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Do you love wildlife? Discover more about our amazing animals at the UK's biggest zoo!

Conservation

We're working around the world to conserve animals and their habitats, find out more about our latest achievements.

Science

From the field to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.

Education

A day in Discovery and Learning at ZSL is never dull! The team tell us all about the exciting sessions for school children, as well as work further afield.

Artefact of the month

Every month, one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the Month.

Wild About

Read testimonials from our Members and extracts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine, Wild About.

Chagos Expedition

The Chagos archipelago is a rare haven for marine biodiversity. Hear from the team about our projects to protect the environments in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).

Asia Conservation Programme

ZSL works across Asia, from the famous national parks of Nepal to marine protected areas in the Philippines. Read the latest updates on our conservation.

Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation

An Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.