COVID-19 causes a threat to protected areas in the Global South – evidence from Madagascar

Authors: Johanna Eklund, Ari-Pekka Jokinen, and Tuuli Toivonen


The coronavirus pandemic will have long lasting impacts on the conservation of biodiversity and protected areas. In many Nordic countries, people have been visiting green areas, protected areas included, more than ever. In the Global South however, the situation is almost the opposite, putting conservation at risk. In many developing countries, nature-based tourism has been important for financing biodiversity conservation. Tourism to protected areas has, however, ceased drastically during the global confinement strategies. The consequences of vanishing tourism are very visible for example in Madagascar, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, with the highest number of threatened species globally. While being rich in biodiversity, Madagascar is economically among the poorest nations in the world. Madagascar currently has protected 7.5 % of its terrestrial land area, but this protection relies on funding from abroad. Previous research (Eklund et al. 2016 & Eklund et al. 2019) have shown that the protected areas have the capacity to curb deforestation, but funding is needed for the maintenance of conservation actions.

In Madagascar, tourism contribute to approximately 30 % of the annual income of the protected area agency Madagascar National Parks (MNP). MNP is managing some of the most visited national parks in the country. Due to the pandemic there have been concerns raised that the loss of tourism revenue could make the protected areas more vulnerable to illegal encroachment, such as poaching and deforestation. Both Mongabay and National Geographic have reported about these concerns recently. So far the concerns have been based on expert opinions and anecdotal evidence. In this writing, we provide evidence that the protected areas in Madagascar are experiencing rapid increases in human induced fires during the corona crisis.

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