Poachers have been taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to kill more animals, whether it’s rhinos in Africa, giant ibises in Asia, or wild cats in South America. Lockdown measures and falling tourism gives them free rein to roam and hunt for endangered species.
Conservationists in multiple places cite anecdotal evidence that there has been an increase in poaching. In Botswana, at least six rhinos have been killed in recent weeks, and in South Africa, at least nine, according to CNBC. In Colombia, poachers have been killing more jaguars, pumas, and ocelots, Newsweek reports. In Cambodia, three giant ibises—so 1% to 2% of the global population—drank poison reportedly set up by poachers, who according to Mongabay have become more active in Southeast Asia. In India, people are illegally hunting for various kinds of deer.
Conservationists say there’s a variety of reasons for the increase in killings. With no tourism, far fewer people who could spot poachers are in national parks or other protected areas. Animal rights advocates also can’t continue their work as they would in normal circumstances. In Colombia, wild cats are on the prowl outside of protected areas, worrying local activists that farmers will be killing them to protect their livestock.
With revenue from tourism and other industries falling, people are losing jobs and may be turning to poaching to make money or feed themselves.
And there’s another worry. Tourist money fuels many wildlife reserves and parks, and without it, they might struggle with their conservation efforts.