Rhinos in Africa, giant ibises in Asia and wild cats in South America have all been targeted while tourists have stayed away.
The sudden fall in tourism income has also deprived wildlife reserves and national parks of a reliable funding stream to further protect animal populations.
At least nine rhinos have been killed in South Africa, and at least six in Botswana since the lockdown, CNBC reported. “It’s a bloody calamity. It’s an absolute crisis,” said Map Ives, founder of Rhino Conservation Botswana.
The big cats had been venturing into areas normally overrun by humans, such as beaches, where they were at greater risk, the group said. It’s feared farmers are killing them to protect their livestock.
“Since our information comes from a network of informants who are also generally locked down, it is impossible to know how widespread this hunting is yet,” Esteban Payán, a regional programme director, told Newsweek.
“With five jaguars, one puma and one ocelot already reported poached in northwest Colombia, I am afraid to guess the true level of carnage.”
Snares and electrical wires were used to trap other wild animals, too, it was reported.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, regular tourist parties in the world’s conservation zones used to deter hunters who feared being spotted.
The closure of industry in countries rich in wildlife has put people out of work, which on top of the tourism drop, is a “double whammy”, according to the Noah’s Ark Foundation, a South Africa-based conservation organisation.
Its experts fear organised poaching of elephant ivory could be next.
“People poach to feed their families, and for the most part only do so because they need to,” said a spokesman for the foundation, which is fundraising for impoverished communities around the world to stop them poaching wildlife.
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