As COVID-19 consumes the world, it is imperative that African Parks continues to fulfil our conservation mandates and our obligations to our Government partners, and to global society
There is no question that these are unprecedented and devastating times. As COVID-19 continues to consume the world, it is imperative that African Parks carries out our obligation to our Government partners, and to global society, to fulfil our conservation mandates in a responsible manner. Historically, African Parks has done this in the face of massive adversity, including threats ranging from regional instability and international terrorism to outbreaks of the Ebola virus, and rampant diseases like malaria and HIV. We are now doing the same with COVID-19.
With the virus spreading to the African continent, we have had to make decisions to provide for the safekeeping of all our staff and those in and around the areas for which we are fully responsible. Africa’s response to the pandemic has been rapid and efficient. Lockdowns have been instated in most countries and tourism has come to a dramatic standstill. In line with the South African Government’s restrictions, our head office staff will work remotely until at least the 11th of May. In addition, following WHO and CDC guidelines, we have provided clear measures for all of our staff across the continent to undertake. All parks are currently dealing with their own restrictions according to each Government’s directives. While tourism has been suspended, except in Zambia and Malawi where domestic tourism has not yet formally been banned, all the parks are maintaining essential operations.
African Parks has an important role to play in helping to curtail the spread of this virus, especially to the vulnerable communities that live in and around the parks. All parks have initiated health and virus awareness programmes, including informative radio messages, posters, and direct communication in the communities. Where appropriate, we are offering logistical assistance such as community hand-washing facilities and providing fuel to health officials. In an effort to reduce the spread of the virus within the parks and nearby communities we have also heightened monitoring of park staff members and are supplying them with basic health products for their families including soap and sanitisers. Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi and Garamba National Park in the DRC for example are buying in basic food items and providing to staff at cost to reduce visits to markets and therefore exposure. Considering the economic toll the virus has had on society, Akagera National Park in Rwanda has gotten permission for community farms to continue operating and are actively encouraging people to buy their products. In Odzala-Kokoua National Park in Congo, our team has suspended all habituation of and contact with the gorilla communities to limit exposure and risk. The virus’ effect on gorillas is still unknown, however there have been reports of other human-animal transmission and primates have historically been highly affected by similar diseases. Thanks to the Paradise Foundation, infrared thermometer guns and surgical masks are in the process of being shipped to the parks, and Steven Ying and High Impact Capital Advisors Limited in Hong Kong who also generously gifted African Parks with surgical masks which are also being distributed across the parks.
In this time of uncertainty, we highly appreciate the steadfast support of our donors. We are deeply committed to keeping the parks running and supporting the more than 2,620 full-time and several thousand part-time employees who rely on the parks for their livelihoods and security. The spread of COVID-19 is a sobering reminder of the connection between global health and the ecosystems that we are working to protect, for people and wildlife.
We continue to see progress on the ground even despite these unprecedented times. While tourism has stopped, our core business has not – that being protecting and managing national parks for the benefit of society. Our mission matters now more than ever. Protecting nature truly is a matter of not just our long-term, but our immediate survival. Thank you for walking this path with us and helping us reclaim a sustainable future.
Your support goes a long way
We hope you’ll consider supporting African Parks during these unprecedented times. Hope starts here, and you can make a difference by supporting our work in safeguarding nature, with the places we are protecting now, to ensure a healthy future for us all.