Published in January 2022
This module is a resource for lecturers
Other challenges posed by wildlife trafficking that affect local populations
Biodiversity loss impacts community conservation programming, especially when such programming is premised on the protection of charismatic megafauna. Community conservancies are less attractive to tourists when there are no ‘exotic’ animals to see. Moreover, biodiversity loss also leads to cascading effects on the ecosystems. As an example, elephants, rhinos and vultures are considered keystone species that fulfill important ecosystem services. Vultures are obligate scavengers that feed on dead animals, thereby removing deadly bacteria (including rabies and anthrax) from the bush (Kane et al. 2014). In places where vultures have gone extinct, dead animals take longer to decompose, which can lead to considerable public health impacts. Likewise, the probability of transmission of zoonoses increases – e.g. rabies infection in wild or stray dogs. The consequences of biodiversity loss are disproportionately felt by the poor who rely on natural resources for food security, medicinal products, fuel and construction materials (Díaz et al. 2006). Additionally, while wealthier people can buy products to substitute protein and vitamins coming from traditional, local food sources that have decreased due to habitat loss, less privileged people may see their access to resources that contribute to a healthy life curbed (Díaz et al. 2006).
Climate change affects global ecosystems, which in turn can have a domino effect on the environment, including the water and the air. It also brings increased health risks such as respiratory health issues from increased dust storms, for example, and warmer, wetter weather aids the spread of insect-borne diseases such as dengue fever, Zika and Lyme disease (Denchak 2017) in some countries. Additionally, increased temperatures and global warming affect sea levels, coastal erosion, severe droughts, floods and storms, potentially contributing towards people’s decision to migrate to different locations (Denchak 2015).
Disease outbreaks affect all aspects of human lives. For instance, the Ebola virus disease outbreak and subsequent measures implemented to stop the spread of the virus in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone had a tremendous impact on local communities who depend on agriculture (see Alpha and Figuié 2016). When it comes to conservation in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, scholars have argued that in Africa, for instance, ‘the net environmental impact’ will be ‘strongly negative’ due to reduction in funding and in conservation capacity, and due to threats to wildlife and ecosystems (Lindsey et al. 2020).