Health: Poaching and Epidemics

The Story:

One of the less noticed side effects of the global pandemic has been an increase in poaching: the illicit killing of specimens of protected animal species and the trade in their corpses or body parts, often across national borders.


In Uganda, for instance, ecotourism is a critical part of the economy. People come from around the world to see lions, giraffes, and gorillas in their native habitat. Or they did: but the pandemic has severely limited international travel. The tourists aren’t coming, they aren’t paying the fees for tours through the protected areas, and those fees in turn aren’t paying for the antipoaching enforcement work. So … poaching is up. Uganda has an estimated 300 lions, and 2,000 giraffes. The loss of any of these — especially of fertile females — is a blow not only to those species but to the prospects for an economic recovery for Uganda once the pandemic has passed.

In Pill Form:

The links of cause and effect may come full circle. As the pandemic allows poaching, so poaching may assist the spread of the next pandemic. The diseases are often zoonotic (crossing from another species to humans) and unrestrained movement of the body parts of wild animals across borders creates obvious biological risks.

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