As poaching rises around the world, the work of National Park Rescue, our friends and partners is more important than ever. We cannot forget that poaching robs countries of their natural heritage, hastens ecological collapse and reinforces local inequalities.
The impact of COVID-19 on poaching and trafficking is complex, with a multitude of factors contributing to local increases in wildlife crime. All across Africa, with tourism having collapsed, poaching is on the rise due to increased poverty, increased opportunism, and decreased vigilance, but Chizarira is holding firm.
It is times like this that National Park Rescue’s strong focus on community engagement and integration becomes absolutely vital. For many of our local communities, their jobs and trade, let alone their clean water, clean air, flood mitigation and pollination services all come from the park, and the majority of local people know that to poach is to jeopardise their own futures.
There is a criminal element in any society that must be policed, but they are deterred to. Not by any appreciation that their neighbours’ jobs and livelihoods are dependent upon the success of the park, or that healthy and intact landscapes are vital for human health and wellbeing; they are deterred by the fact that if they come into the park to poach, we will catch them.
We have worked tirelessly with our ZimParks colleagues to make Chizarira a hard target, too risky for the majority of poachers to bother with, and the huge decline in poaching in Chizarira over the past 2 years demonstrates our success. Now, in the time of COVID-19, with poaching on the rise all over the world, we face our sternest test yet, and we will prevail.