Pandemic response impacts illegal wildlife trade

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services employee assembles a stack of confiscated ivory to be destroyed in this 2013 photo. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services employee assembles a stack of confiscated ivory to be destroyed in this 2013 photo. ©Ivy Allen/USFWS

Measures to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus have had mixed results on global wildlife poaching. Restrictions on movement and tighter border security have reduced the transportation of illegal items like ivory and pangolin scales into China, the New York Times reports. Meanwhile, poachers in parts of Africa are taking advantage of reduced ranger patrols and lack of tourists, and the economic impacts of the virus are expected to drive more people into illegal activities.

Experts suggest declines in the illegal wildlife trade are likely to be short-lived unless the COVID-19 pandemic results in a greater stigmatization of illegal wildlife products. “If we take what is really an extraordinary opportunity to exploit those vulnerabilities, we can make huge inroads in ending the illegal wildlife trade,” Tim Wittig, head of intelligence for the nonprofit United for Wildlife, told the Times. “We actually have an opportunity to win here.”

The Wildlife Society has joined more than 250 conservation and development experts and organizations from around the world in urging intergovernmental bodies to consider impacts on biodiversity and the world’s most vulnerable people in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more from the New York Times.