Edited from The New York Times, April 8, 2020 By Annie Roth
Threatened and endangered animals are becoming casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rhino 911 is a nonprofit organization that provides emergency helicopter transport for rhinoceroses. Since South Africa announced a national lockdown on March 23, Rhino 911 has had to respond to a rhino poaching incident nearly every single day.
In neighboring Botswana, at least six rhinos have been poached since the country closed its borders.
These recent incidents are unusual because they occurred in tourism hot spots that, until now, were considered relatively safe havens for wildlife. South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, and Kenya rely on tourism to fund wildlife conservation, but thanks to border closures and crackdowns on international travel, foreigners can’t visit national parks or conservancies.
This shines a light on the fact that Africa’s wild animals are not just protected by rangers, they’re also protected by the presence of tourists.
Poachers have normally avoided places where there are lots of tourists, but now they are feeling free to move into locations they’ve previously avoided.
Besides empty parks, no tourists mean no money. National lockdowns have severely constricted Africa’s $39 billion tourism industry, which funds wildlife conservation all across the continent.
Without revenue from tourism, many parks, private reserves and community conservancies are finding it difficult to pay employees. Paid protection has dwindled. Rangers and private game guards have found their jobs in jeopardy. Many are being laid off. Those that are still employed are working alone.
If the economic situation doesn’t improve, not only will the poaching of rhinoceros, elephants and other iconic animals escalate, but poaching for the purpose of obtaining bushmeat will increase as well.
In the hopes of alleviating the situation, the Nature Conservancy, a U.S.-based environmental organization, recently began raising money for cash-strapped parks, conservancies and private reserves in Africa that need help paying rangers and guards.
Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Kampala (April 6, 2020)
Event: There are 52 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in Uganda according to the Ministry of Health.
Since the closure of Entebbe International Airport on March 23, the U.S. Embassy has worked with the Government of Uganda to allow for two special commercial flights through Qatar Airways to assist U.S. citizens wanting to depart Uganda.
Health Alert – U.S. Embassy, Nairobi (April 5, 2020)
Event: As of April 6, 2020 there are 158 confirmed cases COVID-19 throughout Kenya. Movement is restricted in and out of Nairobi Metropolitan Area starting 7pm tonight, April 6, for 21 days. Similar restrictions will apply to Kilifi, Kwale, and Mombasa counties beginning at 7 pm on Wednesday, April 8. Restrictions will be supervised by Kenyan police. Movement within these areas outside curfew hours is allowed if people follow directives to wear masks and practice social distance.
Goodall is in England, in the house she grew up in, and she has a few thoughts about chimpanzees, the coronavirus pandemic and the loo paper shortage. This is part of an edited phone conversation. The journalist’s questions appear in bold text.
Jane Goodall is in isolation these days along with everyone else, since a fund-raising tour was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. She is staying at her family home in England, not in Tanzania, her primary home when not on the road.
Dr. Goodall changed the way the world views chimpanzees with research that began when she first went to Africa 60 years ago this July, a young woman without a college degree, to observe chimpanzees in the wild at what is now the Gombe Stream Research Centre in Tanzania.
She later became a tireless advocate for chimps in captivity. When she began her work, chimps were routinely used in medical research, a practice Dr. Goodall and other advocates helped stop in the U.S.
So this pause has let you step back a bit? It’s catching up, you know. But there are some things that are so unbelievably worrying. In the U.S. you have people who can apply for unemployment or something. But what about in Tanzania, for example? The people running the bars, the restaurants, selling food at the side of the road — all banned now. And they make just enough to keep alive for a week and pay the rent and there’s no social security, nothing for them.
Being isolated has made me think of what it must be like for chimpanzees who were isolated in captivity, who depend on physical closeness and touch. I think about it all the time. I’ve thought about it ever since I saw secretly filmed footage of these social beings in medical research labs in 5-foot by 5-foot cages. The first time I went into one of those labs. It was horrendous. And solitary confinement. As you say, it’s bad enough for us, but we have all these other ways of distracting. And what about these animals who have nothing? But you know the other thing is, if you’re trying to look for silver linings in this horrible time. It has reactivated the discussion about animal trafficking, selling wild animals for food or for medicine. Everybody’s pointing fingers at China, but already the government’s made a total ban on the markets, selling animals for food and on trafficking, importing wild animals. So we just have to hope that because of the magnitude of this pandemic they will keep that ban. At the moment it’s temporary, but let’s hope they enforce it forever, and close down the market for animals used in traditional medicine.
Animals, although not chimps, will be used in testing treatments and vaccines for Covid-19. What is your stance on animal experimentation? My stance is that ultimately there will be a time with no animal experimentation. What pleased me about the chimp situation is that I was in it from the ethical point of view, but the fact that the chimps were put in sanctuaries because the research was not useful was a far better outcome than if it had been done on ethical grounds. It’s like fossil fuel. People say we want to stop using fossil fuel now. Well that’s clearly impossible. You can’t just suddenly stop something. And this medical research on animals won’t suddenly stop, although I wish it would. The trouble is that people working on alternatives just don’t get the right support.
Even pathogens producing mild symptoms in humans have been lethal to great apes in the past. The fact that Covid-19 is fatal for some humans leads experts to fear it could potentially prove devastating to great apes.
The coronavirus pandemic could wipe out populations of chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans, leading scientists have warned.
Our closest living relatives, which share about 98% of human DNA, are known to be susceptible to catching respiratory diseases from people. No great apes have yet been reported to have contracted Covid-19, so the true impact is unknown. But many great apes are already at risk of extinction due to forest destruction and poaching, so the researchers say closing national parks, reserves and zoos must be seriously considered.
Uganda has not announced a shutdown of gorilla tourism, although tourist traffic from Europe and elsewhere has dwindled. A spokesperson for the Uganda Wildlife Authority, Bashir Hangi, said the decision on whether to shut down gorilla tourism is now academic as there is almost no business amid the outbreak.
The number of surviving mountain gorillas has been rising, with about 1,000 now living in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, and the species was moved from critically endangered to endangered. It is the only great ape believed to be increasing in number.
Health Alert: Survey for Possible Future Flight Message Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Kampala (March 24, 2020) Reply-To: Kampala, USCitizens
The Government of Uganda announced the closure of Entebbe International Airport effective at 12:00 a.m. March 23, as well as the closure of all land borders. No individual will be allowed to enter or depart Uganda by air, land, or water except for specific cargo vehicles which must follow strict Ministry of Health procedures.
The U.S. Embassy in Kampala has confirmed that the Qatar Airways flight for March 25 was closed for booking due to heavy demand. Qatar Airways has said they will return phone calls to the individuals who had already reached Qatar Airways and arrange their booking, to the extent that they can find sufficient availability aboard onward flights from Doha to the United States.
If you want to return to the United States but you were unable to book this or any other flight, please register your interest by completing a survey at: https://forms.gle/ue9E4WGDLVoMvseF9.
email@example.com Message for U.S. Citizens: Suspension of International Flights Effective Midnight, March 25th Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
KampalaUSCitizen@state.gov Message Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Kampala (March 22, 2020) Reply-To: Kampala, USCitizens
The Government of Uganda has announced . . . No individual will be allowed to enter Uganda by air, land, or water except for specific cargo vehicles which must follow strict Ministry of Health procedures. Further, the Ugandan Ministry of Health confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Entebbe, Uganda on March 21, 2020.
KampalaUSCitizens@state.gov˜ Health Alert: U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya March 21, 2020 Reply-To: email@example.com
Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Kampala, Uganda (March 21, 2020) Location: Uganda
Event: There are no confirmed cases COVID-19 reported in Uganda.
The Government of Uganda haw announced the closure of Entebbe International Airport, to be effective at 12am March 23 (midnight the night of March 22), as well as the closure of all land borders, No individual will bellowed to enter Uganda by air, land or water . . .
KampalaUSCitizens@state.gov˜ Health Alert: U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya March 13, 2020 Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Kampala, Uganda (March 18, 2020) Location: Uganda
Event: The government of Uganda has implemented enhanced screening and quarantine measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice.
email@example.com Health Aler for U.S. Citizens Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. EMBASSY NAIROBI, KENYA Health Alert for U.S. Citizens March 16, 2020
Event: The government of Kenya has implemented enhanced screening and quarantine measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice.
On March 15, the Kenya Ministry of Health announced three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nairobi.
On March 15, President Kenyatta released a directive regarding the potential for COVID-19 in Kenya. The government of Kenya released the following guidance effective March 17 and will remain in effect for the next 30 days:
· The government of Kenya is suspending travel for all persons coming into Kenya from any country with reported Coronavirus cases.
· Only Kenyan citizens, and any foreigners with valid residence permits, will be allowed to enter the country provided they self-quarantine or quarantine in a government-designated facility.
· All persons who have come into Kenya in the last 14 days must self-quarantine. If any person exhibits symptoms such as cough or fever they should present themselves to the nearest health facility for testing.
A full transcript of the directive is available on the Kenya Ministry of Health website.
The government has implemented quarantines in Kenya. Transportation to or from Kenya, and public services including schools and government offices are restricted or closed. Private companies – including hotels, apartment buildings, or supermarkets – have restricted access. Effective Wednesday, March 18th, personal travel for U.S. government personnel will be limited to a 2-hour driving radius from their residence (Nairobi, Kisumu or Kericho). Personal travel by train or airplane in Kenya will also be restricted until further notice.
Actions to Take:
· Visit the Kenyan Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 website for updated information.
· Consult the CDC website for the most up-to-date information.
“Mountain gorillas are highly susceptible to human-borne disease. Even a common cold, which is little more than a temporary inconvenience for humans, could prove fatal to them.”
The current tourism standards emphasize that humans must maintain a seven-meter (or greater) distance from gorillas at all times, which in the absence of wind is the minimum safe distance to avoid a sneezed droplet carrying infectious particles.
The International Gorilla Conservation Programme is using the COVID-19 moment to tighten the “Certified Gorilla Friendly” tourism standards it wants to see implemented in Rwanda, Uganda and the DR Congo.
One of the most pressing issues discussed at the IGCP workshop was the need to ensure that a minimum distance is maintained between visitors and gorillas and—given that the apes are oblivious to these rules of engagement—the importance of taking extra precautions to legislate for those moments when gorillas make it impossible to observe the guidelines. Foremost among these additional measures is the use of a mask or other form of protective barrier to cover the nose and mouth throughout the one-hour duration of a gorilla encounter.
email@example.com Health Alert: U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya March 13, 2020 Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya March 13, 2020 Location: Kenya
Event: On March 13, the Kenyan Ministry of Health announced one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Nairobi.
The Kenyan Ministry of Health has suspended all public gatherings, meetings and events. All routine consular appointments at the U.S. Embassy from March 16 to March 27 are canceled. In the case of a U.S. citizen in need of emergency assistance, please contact the U.S. Embassy using the contact information below before coming.
U.S. government personnel are advised to limit non-essential travel.
Today, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Basically, it means an epidemic…but on a global scale. I thought I’d better contact our tour agent.
From: Denise Carlton <email@example.com> Sent: Wednesday, March 11, 2020 3:05 PM To: Carol Flax <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Recent communications from U.S. Embassy in Nairobi and Kampala
Carol, I was sent two emails today. One was from the U.S Embassy in Nairobi. The email from the U.S. Embassy in Kampala contained the following:
“On March 7, 2020, the Ministry if Health imposed self-quarantine requirements for asymptomatic travelers and in-hospital requirement for all symptomatic travelers arriving in Uganda after recent stays (within 14 days of arrival) in several countries most seriously impacted by COVID-19. The United States was added to that list on March 11, 2020, along with several other countries.”
So, do we need more insurance, or are we covered?
From: Carol Flax <Carol@xxxxxxxxxxxx.com> Sent: Wednesday, March 11, 2020 2:57 PM To: Denise Carlton <email@example.com> Subject: Recent communications from U.S. Embassy in Nairobi and Kampala
I also just got word on this within the last hour or two. I will be reviewing everything over the next day or two…as you can imagine, we are overwhelmed here and I have over a dozen people leaving within the next 48 hours to India which just cancelled all visas…and at least another dozen in travel or affected in the next week or so.
Please give me a little time to “triage” and address these immediate issues, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. I truly believe all will be settled down before your trip, but we will discuss.
Thanks for your patience and understanding during this challenging time.
A second coronavirus email alert arrived this afternoon. This time it came from the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda.
In part, it reads: “On March 7, 2020, the Ministry if Health imposed self-quarantine requirements for asymptomatic travelers and in-hospital requirement for all symptomatic travelers arriving in Uganda after recent stays (within 14 days of arrival) in several countries most seriously impacted by COVID-19. The United States was added to that list on March 11, 2020, along with several other countries.”
United States citizens traveling abroad can register their trips with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate by signing on to the Smart Travelers Enrollment Program (STEP). Enrollment can be done online at the U.S. Department of State website.
Kenya is a developing country, still in the process of improving its human development index. This, coupled with the recent kidnapping of a California woman in Uganda, makes registering my trip seem like a sensible, precautionary step to take. In case of an emergency, the U.S. government will know about my presence in the country and where to contact me. Registration is free.
I have also signed up to receive email notifications when the latest Travel Advisories for Kenya and Uganda are posted on travel.state.gov. Users can unsubscribe at anytime.
The U.S. State Department publishes a color coded map showing travel safety levels for the world.