Conservation International Reports Increase in Poaching And Tropical Deforestation Due to COVID-19 Restrictions

April 21, 2020

Arlington, VA (April 21, 2020) – Citing an increase in poaching and tropical deforestation, Conservation International CEO Dr. M. Sanjayan today released the following statement:

“Since COVID-19 restrictions went into effect around the world over the past two months, two disturbing trends have emerged. First, we have seen alarming increases in bushmeat and ivory poaching in Kenya and Cambodia. Although some of this stems from food needs in rural areas, it appears that the commercial trade of illegal wildlife products has also expanded.

“Meanwhile, a surge in agricultural expansion and illegal mining has accelerated tropical deforestation in Brazil, Colombia and Cambodia. Evidence suggests that the majority of these activities were enabled by weakened enforcement efforts that people exploited — some driven by desperation, others by profit.  

“Poaching and deforestation are unfortunate and disturbing, as our health — and the health of our economies — are inextricably linked to the health of our planet. Wildlife trafficking and tropical deforestation created the conditions that enabled COVID-19 to spread to humans in the first place. Now, by accelerating the destruction of nature, we are only increasing the risk of future pandemics.

“Even as we continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the global community must minimize future risks by addressing these threats. Conservation International is working with government partners and local communities to protect nature while providing sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by the COVID-19 crisis. We call on others to join us in these efforts.”

Conservation International cited the following recent incidents, with reports coming in daily from its offices around the world:

  • In Kenya there has been an alarming increase in bushmeat harvest and trafficking, both of which are illegal in Kenya. The organization has also observed an increase in charcoal production, likely due to the economic downturn that has made cooking gas a luxury item. (The production and sale of charcoal, which drives deforestation, has been illegal in Kenya since 2018.) Conservation International-Kenya also is reporting that the first instance of elephant poaching for ivory in Northern Kenya in 2020 took place in April.
  • In Cambodia, our field office reports an increase in deforestation caused by illegal logging, as well as an increase in the sale of bushmeat. The field office also anticipates that sharply increased urban-rural migration due to job losses could drive further deforestation via agricultural expansion and logging.
  • Conservation International-Philippines is reporting that while there has been an uptick in illegal activities, the government has stated it is cracking down on illegal logging, wildlife trade and illegal fishing during the COVID-19 crisis, especially against those who are taking advantage of the crisis situation.

About Conservation International

Conservation International works to protect the critical benefits that nature provides to people. Through science, partnerships and fieldwork, Conservation International is driving innovation and investments in nature-based solutions to the climate crisis, supporting protections for critical habitats, and fostering economic development that is grounded in the conservation of nature.  We work in 30 countries around the world, empowering societies at all levels to create a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable planet. Follow Conservation International's work on Conservation NewsFacebookTwitter, Instagram and YouTube.