Conservation in times of Covid-19

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The global pandemic of Covid-19 has also greatly affected the conservation work in the country, just like any undertakings. The restrictions of movement during the community quarantine have prevented most of those who are involved in biodiversity conservation in doing the usual routines of field work, travels, mass gathering and face-to-face meetings, among others.

The work in conservation involves a lot of field activities, from biological surveys and researches, community participation and engagements to coordination and networking with various institutions and groups. All of these have been hampered due to the spread of the coronavirus, which is suspected to emanate from a wildlife species.

Aside from field surveys, biodiversity conservation entails protection and law enforcement to ensure the protection of wildlife and their habitats. One of the concerns during this time of pandemic is the possibility of wildlife hunting and timber poaching, not only because no one is on guard, but also on the need for income and food. Although the dependency to forest and other natural resources for livelihood of many communities has long been an issue before the pandemic, the lack or absence of economic opportunities during these difficult times may trigger the upsurge of such kind of income generating activity.

Some upland residents may extract more timber from the forest for fuel wood and charcoal and sold them to the market for income. Those who are relying on electricity, kerosene, and liquefied petroleum gas for cooking may resort to charcoal and fuel wood to minimize their expenses. This situation is no longer just an issue of forest protection, but it is already a question of food and survival. Most likely, livelihood assistance being provided by both government and nongovernment institutions in upland communities has also been affected with the restriction in mobility, and priorities have been shifted in addressing the health and medical conditions of the country. In areas where agriculture and fishery production continued during the enhanced community quarantine, farmers and fisherfolk have experienced difficulty in transporting and selling their products.

The government’s financial and food assistance in the form of Social Amelioration Program during this health crisis was only limited and short term. As the community quarantine started to ease up, it is now necessary to strengthen the provision of livelihood activities to upland communities that would ensure food security and sustainable income. Most of the attention given during this pandemic is centered on urban population, but there is a need, too, to assess the situation of upland dwellers, especially when it comes to food and income requirements.

Many conservation organizations, and even the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other government agencies are resorting to online events by hosting webinars, meetings, trainings, and workshops. In a way, this is good for the environment as much less is being spent for travels, food, accommodation, venues, supplies, and materials.
While these online gatherings could not fully substitute face-to-face interactions, somehow this pandemic has taught us to minimize activities that would further add to our carbon footprints. Most of our travels, either by land, sea or air, entail the use of fuels resulting to emission of carbon in the atmosphere, in addition to the fuel consumed in using venues for mass gatherings or events.

With the imposition of several health protocols, many are using disposable and non-biodegradable surgical facemasks. While there are existing guidelines on the proper disposal of medical wastes, only hospitals and other medical facilities are practicing them, although I am really in doubt if all these establishments are seriously and fully implementing these disposal protocols.
In most cases, a good number of community members are disposing surgical facemasks as just part of the daily household wastes. In fact, it is not remote to see disposed surgical masks in streets and garbage bins. There were reports that these masks started to scatter in some shorelines, and they will eventually pollute the coastal and marine ecosystems.*

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