A total of six million Euros in emergency relief funding to address biodiversity conservation needs brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic is being made available by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the European Commission, and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS). These European Union funds will be distributed through two complementary programmes managed by IUCN. They aim to alleviate the impacts of the pandemic on the management of protected areas and on threatened species.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us just how vulnerable conservation initiatives are to major disruptions. The pandemic has left local communities who protect wildlife struggling to make a living, and many threatened species increasingly exposed”, said Dr Bruno Oberle, IUCN Director General. “With the help of our long-standing partners, the European Commission and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States, IUCN will be able to address urgent needs triggered by the pandemic while building greater resilience in the conservation sector.”
One of the programmes, the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) Rapid Response Grants, managed by IUCN and supported by the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States and the European Commission, is expected to fund approximately 60 projects, with a total budget of two million Euros. The Rapid Response Grants will address negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting travel and access restrictions on the management of protected areas, while strengthening the resilience of local communities in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.
H.E. Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti, Secretary-General of the OACPS, said: “In this time of crisis, we are committed to ensuring the well-being of our citizens, especially the vulnerable people in our local communities. COVID-19 has deprived many people of their livelihoods, thereby placing natural resources and protected areas under greater threat. These Rapid Response Grants managed by BIOPAMA will provide a much-needed and effective assistance to our 79 Member States to mitigate the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on protected areas.”
In addition, the European Commission and IUCN are making a further four million Euros available as Rapid Action Grants under the IUCN Save Our Species African Wildlife Initiative to help address impacts from COVID-19 on the conservation of terrestrial or freshwater species in continental Sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar. These grants protect threatened species against anticipated increases in poaching, as well as a risk of transmission of the disease from humans to wild animals, especially great apes. Furthermore, Rapid Action Grants also support the development of diverse alternative livelihoods for communities who depended on wildlife-based tourism.
“The BIOPAMA and Save our Species grants will provide critical and urgently needed support to local communities at the frontline of biodiversity conservation while guaranteeing the full respect of human rights. The projects will increase the resilience of local communities impacted by COVID-19 and support anti-poaching patrols in response to the risk of increased poaching incidents. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of wildlife conservation, which is essential to prevent the spreading of zoonotic diseases”, said Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships.
“Biodiversity conservation will remain a priority of EU external action and a pillar for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals as we move towards defining the world’s post-2020 global biodiversity ambitions. The European Commission will continue working with IUCN and all the conservation actors, including the beneficiaries of these rapid action grants, towards achieving conservation outcomes that benefit both biodiversity and society”, said Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries.
Protected and conserved areas are key to maintaining healthy ecosystems and protecting natural habitats, wild species and the livelihoods of local communities in all parts of the world. Travel restrictions and closures of protected areas in many countries in response to the pandemic have led to dramatic losses of income from tourism for many local communities living in or near such areas. As a result, certain communities have been forced to supplement limited food supplies from the wild, and reports of an increase in poaching and other illegal activities have emerged from multiple protected areas as conservation efforts have been halted or reduced.
Header image: Paul Funston.