On March 9th, the Mirpuri Foundation organized a high-level webinar that joined six internationally recognized experts to discuss the following main theme: “The impact of Covid-19 on Wildlife Conservation”.

The online event raised awareness on the importance of protecting wildlife, looking at the challenges posed by the global pandemic and the solutions for wildlife conservation. Illegal wildlife trade, poaching and climate change were some of the topics discussed during this approximately two-hour webinar.

The key speakers of the virtual event were: Bishan Singh Bonal (Global Tiger Forum, Project Leader, India), Robert Campbell (United for Wildlife, Programme Manager), José Dias Ferreira (Coordinator of the European Breeding Program for the Persian Leopard), Rui Bernardino (Zoo Veterinarian and Co-Vet Advisor of the Persian Leopard), Kellie Leigh (Executive Director of Science for Wildlife, Australia) and Remco van Merm (Species Conservation Grants Coordinator at IUCN Save our Species Initiative).

While opening the webinar, Paulo Mirpuri, the President of the Mirpuri Foundation, stressed the need to protect wildlife and how the global pandemic is affecting the planet. He said: “For the last 14 months the world has been facing an unprecedented time, with the largest pandemic in the last 100 years. Priorities have changed quickly at the individual, family, and governmental levels. We have seen ecosystems left alone, that were able to regenerate, but we have also seen the mass production of protection equipment made of plastic that is ending up in the ocean aggravating what was already a very serious issue. It will be very interesting to understand the views of our experts today and how the Covid-19 pandemic is impacting wildlife conservation.”

The opening remarks were followed by the experts’ discussion on how the international health crisis has been affecting wildlife. On this matter, Bishan Bonal, Global Tiger Forum’s Project Leader, highlighted: “Apart from the human being affected, even in the captivity of the Zoos, tigers were tested positive”. He continued: “Thankfully, in most of the cases, they recovered from the Covid infection”. 

Remco van Merm, Species Conservation Grants Coordinator at IUCN Save our Species Initiative, underlined that poaching has increased during the pandemic. He stressed: “There has been a reduced capacity for antipoaching controls. This has been a result of the loss of income of the organizations that make sure that these controls happen”.

The speakers also mentioned concrete examples of how the pandemic has affected their conservation efforts and work. José Dias Ferreira, Coordinator of the European Breeding Program for the Persian Leopard, said: “We have a lot of animals in closure in Zoos in Europe ready to be transferred between them, but the transports are much more complicated, more expensive and delayed”.

Rui Bernardino, Lisbon Zoo Veterinarian, also pointed out: “During these times we have to reformulate the way of work. If we take a bad option it can bring us to an outbreak and then we don’t have people to work on the next day”. He added: “The main challenge is on one side to protect people, because we are talking about specialized work. On the other side, we have to protect animals. And this work has to be done every day, it cannot stop.”

After exploring the challenges posed by the pandemic, the speakers proposed solutions and suggestions to ensure a better future on a conservation basis. Robert Campbell, Programme Manager for United for Wildlife believes that it is critical that we continue to raise awareness: “On the back of the momentum that we are seeing at the moment, there is an increased public interest in biodiversity and we really want to ensure that continues in the coming years.”

Kellie Leigh, Executive Director of Science for Wildlife, also explained: “The biggest way to get engagement is through participation with people, and that’s far more challenging now. So things like this webinar and using technology to reach people is a really important tool as well”.

The event finished with a Q&A session which contributed to bringing last-minute issues to the table. 

This webinar comes as part of Mirpuri Foundation’s Wildlife Conservation Program and contributed to raise awareness on wildlife by sharing insights from prominent speakers who work to preserve wildlife on a daily basis.

Review the Webinar here: