African States Battling COVID-19 with Low Wildlife Conservation Budgets

African states battling COVID-19 with its accompany economic recession are observing the great danger and adverse impacts on wildlife conservation for sustainable tourism development on the continent.

The pandemic has set off the first recession in sub-Saharan Africa, the leading wildlife rich area that attracts most photographic safari tourists visiting Africa each year.

The East African region, one among the leading wildlife safari destinations in Africa, had its regional annual budgets allocation to conservation with a focus on tourism with wildlife and environment counted as lower than expected.

East African regional budgets were tabled before each country’s parliament in mid-June.

Kenya allocated 1.4 percent of its total annual budget on wildlife conservation and tourism development, Uganda 1.7 percent, Rwanda had 3.8 percent allocated, and Tanzania one percent of Total Development Expenditure.

The East African Business Council assessment of the COVID-19 impact estimated that East African states will potentially lose upwards of US$5.4 billion in tourism revenue since the pandemic due to travel restrictions and hotel booking cancellations.

Leisure and conference tourism along with external and domestic tourism face possible collapse with hotel occupancy rates declining to 20 percent from 80 percent last year and conference tourism all but ceasing.

East African governments have set aside about US$200 million into special recovery funds for the renovation of facilities, restructuring of business operations, and promotion and marketing of tourism.

Wildlife and nature conservationists in Africa are worried that wildlife numbers could decline for lack of funds to protected areas with increasing poverty levels that might force communities near wildlife-rich areas turning to illicit hunting and other practices that would harm the ecosystem.

Wildlife is the leading attraction for East Africa’s tourism sector and has received substantial investment from governments before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the African Wildlife Foundation stated.

Stopping illegal wildlife trade would also stop the spread of zoonotic diseases that are linked to the health sector, said Kaddu Sebunya, Chief Executive of the African Wildlife Foundation.

“Protecting our forests leads to the safety of water catchment areas, which then leads to provision of better agricultural produce, deters famine, and improves livelihoods. Despite this evidence, conservation remains woefully underfunded,” Sebunya said.

Sebunya said that conservation relies heavily on external funding and has been unable to become self-reliant, worried over the future of wildlife in Africa when donor funding decreases.

Predictions show an expected increase in unsustainable use of natural resources including poaching, with great fear that this situation will lead to another pandemic to the African wildlife.