There was a fall in international and local tourism and the authorities used the opportunity to ramp up protective measures to deter poaching.
We have come a long way from the time we were hunters and gatherers. But the activity has still stuck with many people who travel to exotic locations to track down wild animals and hunt them down. It is no longer about survival but a matter of vanity for those who do trophy hunting and mount their kill as taxidermy exhibits in their homes. Many animal species have been hunted to the brink of extinction if they weren't already dying because of habitat loss and climate change. But for the first time in over two decades, not a single rhino was poached during the lockdown.
For the first time in twenty-one years, KWS made headway in the fight against poaching! In-spite of the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, we reported zero rhino poaching in 2020!#WildlifeKe— KWS (@kwskenya) February 8, 2021
Photo Credit: Alissa
📍Nairobi National Park pic.twitter.com/AsmNOP0QpB
In 2020, the whole world was brought to a standstill because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in a tweet shared: For the first time in twenty-one years, KWS made headway in the fight against poaching! In spite of the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, we reported zero rhino poaching in 2020! In 2019, 754 rhinos were lost to poaching and in the previous decade, 9,442 African rhinos have been lost to poaching, as per Save The Rhino organization. The number of deaths had peaked in 2015 with over 1,300 deaths. It was zero in 2020.
Director General of Kenya Wildlife John Waweru told BBC Newsday that for the first time in more than 20 years there have been no rhino deaths due to poaching, in 2020, as an effect of international travel bans due to the pandemic [full interview: https://t.co/XMRrm8CmVz] pic.twitter.com/6RU8chlIHN— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973) February 6, 2021
“We are incredibly proud of that,” Brigadier John Waweru, who left the navy to take up the role of Director General of KWS two years ago told The Independent. “It’s not just luck, it’s down to lots of hard work and dedication, especially in a pandemic year." The lack of tourism last year cost Kenya 92 percent of its revenue but at the same time, there was a fear that the lockdown would lead to a rise in poaching with fewer people deployed to keep an eye on the ground. “While COVID continues to be a huge crisis, there was no poaching increase,” said Waweru. “Wildlife has flourished."
Peter Meshemi has worked as an armed ranger in northern Kenya, keeping an eye out for poachers and protecting the vulnerable population of elephants, lions, and leopards. “As a ranger, you are trained to work in any situation that may arise,” Meshemi told National Geographic and added about the deadly coronavirus, “We are scared of it. The whole world is scared.” Meshemi and 70 other rangers had to not only keep the wild animals safe from poachers but also had to protect themselves from the virus which has killed more than 1,700 people in Kenya.
Albi Modise, spokesman for the Department of Environment, Forestry, and Fisheries told the Associated Press, “The lockdown presented an opportunity for us. There was no international or local tourism and the lockdown also prevented poachers from moving around and we were able to ramp up our protective measures.” There are currently only 20,000 rhinos in South Africa which make up for 80 percent of their population. “We realize that as the country opens up, we need to up our game to address the possible threat of poaching,” Modise added.
Cathy Dean, chief executive of Save the Rhino, stated, “Although the killings of rhinos have reduced this year, this could be a temporary reprieve. With the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus, and the decline of tourism, many people are desperate and some may turn to poaching. With a resumption of international flights, we may again see seizures of illegal rhino horn, which indicates a resurgent trade." The fall in the numbers was also attributed to the "intelligence-led operations by the KWS anti-poaching team and improved collaboration between law enforcement agencies and local communities who are at the front line of anti-poaching efforts."
The heart of this breakthrough is intelligence-led operations by the KWS anti-poaching team and improved collaboration between law enforcement agencies and local communities who are at the front line of anti-poaching efforts. #WildlifeKe— KWS (@kwskenya) February 8, 2021
Photo Credit : @TonyWildKe
📍Meru N. Park pic.twitter.com/t4n2nEjTGE