Protected areas in distress to deal with Covid-19 | WWF

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Protected areas in distress to deal with Covid-19

The Forum of Terrestrial Protected Areas managers in Madagascar, LAFA, recently published a study about the impacts of Covid-19 on our protected areas. The result is indisputable: the vulnerability of protected areas has increased from March to May 2020.

The study was conducted among 75 members and partners of the LAFA forum between March and May 2020 in order to shed light on the situation of protected areas in the face of the pandemic to better prepare for the coming months. According to the study, available for download here, 29 out of 123 protected areas had more fires than last year over the same period, 6 of which had a drastic increase.

Illegal activities such as coal mining and land clearing are also on the rise. In the Bongolava protected area in northwest Madagascar, for example, recorded illegal coal kilns increased from 53 in December 2019 to 123 in May 2020, an increase of more than 100%. Razafisoa Ratalata, president of Mihavao, a community organization that manages the Amoron'i Onilahy protected area southeast of Toliara, testifies. According to him, "we are unable to conduct community and patrol sensitization because of the health crisis, so crimes such as land clearing, bushfires, and cattle and crop theft have increased." Between April and May, 21 fires were observed in this protected area, which was one of the least cleared in Madagascar in 2019 (32 ha).

WWF is supporting the communities of Amoron'i Onilahy through increased patrolling and monitoring. "Updated fire starting cards and posters have been developed and distributed for the protected area co-managers and community patrollers," says WWF's Jacyntha Ambinintsoa, "to support fire awareness and law enforcement. Community radio programmes will also be planned."

Pressure on protected areas has increased since the start of health restrictions but protected area managers and partner communities are ready to fight to save them. A beacon of hope for conservation in times of crisis.