Biologist Carlos Ruiz has put in over 20 years of field work in preserving golden lion tamarins, a type of long-maned monkeys originally found in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest.
Many thanks to carefully-planned reforestation campaigns, the endangered monkey population had been on the increase until the outbreak of yellow fever was recorded in Brazil two years ago, eliminating over 30% of the tamarins.
Not discouraged with the setback, Ruiz’s and members of his team embarked on another ambitious project. This spring, the teams of wildlife caregivers have in mind to vaccinate all the other monkeys that have not been previously vaccinated.
Deccan Herald reports that before the outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus, which is now seriously affecting ongoing work to preserve habitats and endangered species worldwide.
Firstly, Ruiz’s team members suspected of having an exposure to the virus had to be self-quarantined. Before the Brazilian government shutdown protected areas and national parks to researchers and the public in the middle of April 202, preventing scientists from accessing the reserves where tamarins could be found.
Ruiz, the president of the nonprofit Golden Lion Tamarin Association said he is concerned about not taking advantage of the lockdown to save endangered species. He said he believes much work could still be done before the predicted yellow fever epidemic strikes for a subsequent time.
While the scientists strive to fully observe regulations of the government, they are aware illegal exploiters of the rainforests are still accessing the parks, because they have evidence some of their motion-sensitive research cameras have been seriously tampered with.
Globally, resources of the government have been shifted to efforts aimed at minimizing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Thus, opening an unusual window for unapproved poaching as well as land clearing.
Also, lockdowns have impacted the eco-tourism ventures that generate funds for environmental projects, from Africa’s savannas to South America’s rainforests.
Duke University ecologist, Stuart Pimm, who also doubles as the founder of the nonprofit Saving Species Scientists explained that conservationists have had to stop their work as a result of major global disasters such as earthquakes or a military takeover in some countries.
He further said he could not imagine another time in the future when a global pandemic or some other major events affecting all countries at the same time would be recorded again.
According to New York Times, in Guatemala, indigenous communities monitoring rainforests are finding it tough containing one of the worst fire outbreaks in twenty years, as government firefighting resources have been fully devoted to coronavirus.
Erick Cuellar, Deputy Director of an alliance of community organizations in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve asserted that 99% of these fire outbreaks start with indigenous people whose goal is specifically to create space for cattle ranching.
Indigenous people are volunteering themselves as firefighters, but now they have a challenge with border closure which have significantly reduced their income from harvested forest exports, including palm fronds sold for flower arrangements.
Also, Jeremy Radachowsky, Director for Mesoamerica at the Wildlife Conservation Society said tropical forests are rich in biodiversity and it does not feel great rare fauna and floras are being lost.
He agreed that although a weak implementation of environmental legislation is a common problem, the situation is not the same in all countries.
For instance according to the government and World Wildlife Fund, forest-related crimes such as illegal logging have skyrocketed by over 200% in five parks with rare Bengal tigers in Nepal since the coronavirus lockdown began.
Also, in some countries within Africa, wildlife tourism generates mega earnings to maintain parks where elephants, lions, giraffes, rhinos and other vulnerable species live.
Peter Fearnhead, the CEO of nonprofit African Parks said following the coronavirus outbreak, the whole tourism sector has shut down.
Hawaii Tribune reports that Fearnhead who manages 17 national parks and protected areas in 11 countries also said the outbreak has led to the loss of $7.5 million from the Park’s income statement for 2020, adding that 2021 ecotourism may only recover to about 50% of previous levels.
Although Fearnhead’s team still maintains ranger patrols to prevent poaching, the Park’s management has been able to slash travel expenses by virtual meetings held via Zoom.
Fearhead noted that any protected area without an active management risk being lost.
Jennifer Goetz, the co-founder of a website providing information on ethical travel offers, noted that several African safari businesses hoping to sustain extra revenue generation are encouraging clients to schedule their bookings all over again.
In a survey of operators on the Your African Safari site, nearly 67% of the respondents said most of their bookings had been given newer dates.
Tropical biologist, Patricia Wright notes that conservation only works when efforts are sustained because it depends so much on local communities and relationships with people.
Wright, who is a primatologist at the Stony Brook University has spent 30 years developing a program to study and preserve Madagascar’s lemurs, a large-eyed primates inhabiting the wild island.