C.A.R.E. and COVID-19
Surviving, frustrations, hopes & reality
The need to act
The urgent need to help wild animals survive, conserve populations and preserve habitats has never been so apparent as it is today.
Even before the pandemic, it was well publicised that biodiversity is reaching crisis level and humans need to make profound efforts to protect and respect nature. Recently published science predicted that even resilient primate species like chacma baboons could become extinct by 2070 (Hill, 2019). Science published back in 2015 already proposed that chacma populations are declining, potentially at great risk from destruction of core habitats and due to culling even in protected areas; a result of misconceptions of baboons being “Least Concern” and a pest species (Stone, 2015). Science highlights the importance of protecting habitats in order to safe-guard the future.
Locally, we witness habitat destruction, expanding agriculture, sprawling Game Farms which are breeding unnatural-designer species for hunting and do not tolerate baboons (Pitmann et al., 2016). Even here on a private Nature Reserve, neighboring plot owners in their exclusive bush homes have nominal inclination to prevent conflicts with the primates that live here. The lack of consideration and compassion for primates ensues inevitable opportunistic raids. Primates see calorific-food through open doors and unmaintained windows and it doesn't take much effort to get the bounty; a week's calories in 10 minutes. These avoidable conflicts are met with labeling
primates as “problem animals” and the only acceptable solution to the intolerant humans is to eradicate the inconvenience. If this happens even in the last remaining primate habitats, I fear that the predictive extinction by 2070 is not an unreasonable likelihood.
Humans are devastating wildlife; snowballing numbers of animals needing sanctuary, fragmenting habitats and amassing conflicts. Education and conflict-resolves are restricted in their immediate impact; if baboon habitats continue to be destroyed no amount of education will save them; they need wild areas to live.
The evidence provokes an urgent, pressing need to act. 2019 year end evolved an exciting 5-year strategy which included securing land for semi-wild enclosures and to ensure we have areas to safely release baboons.
2020 - back to survival mode
2020 was to be the launch of reaching longterm dreams for the baboons, commencing with joyous triumphs and huge potential. With plans projected, steady streams of volunteers confirmed, a release site attained and early release success (orphans Bobby, Rory, Bodhi, Albus, Prince and Joseph are all enjoying freedom); I was betting on a good year. Our longterm goals are so close, yet, suddenly we are bought back down to solid Earth. COVID-19 has brought the whole world to an unbelievable stand-still.
This virus has been long-predicted; a result of man’s disrespect for wildlife. The impact is staggering and heart-breaking. Is this virus enough to convince us that we must take action to protect biodiversity and be concerned about the welfare of the animals we share it with? Unfortunately, I personally need more evidence that it will. Hence, we will continue our fight to protect and care for the primates without complacency; I fear our mission does not get easier. Stephen and I are used to adversity; adapting to chaos and rising above the challenges which relentlessly come with the territory; however, this situation has us solemnly concerned. C.A.R.E. survives because of the army of volunteers we have enlisted around the world, and organisations like Boda, IPS, and IPPL, providing essential funds in times of need. With volunteers unable to come due to border closures, and all institutions globally, in unison facing the same catastrophe; it is an unprecedented disaster. Overnight, all main streams of income have disappeared, staff on the ground are minimal, our usual food suppliers ceased activity and the promise of helping hands vanished.
Yet here we are, with 430 orphaned souls looking to us to provide security and care. The typical unforeseen predicaments; vehicle expenses, responding to calls for animals in need and veterinary emergencies proceed. Feeding the baboons has become expensive, staff due to law and humility must still be paid; yet incoming funds are low and our reserves diminishing. Despite our resilience and how accustomed we are to adapting to challenges; we are back to survival mode. We’ve taken advice from other centres, veterinarians, and experts to minimise the damage the virus will conjure; but the reality is, how long we must endure this devastation is unknown.
Operationally, we are used to disease control and prevention and have strict protocols to protect the baboons due to the common risk of tuberculosis. COVID-19 similarly is a respiratory illness, therefore, whilst the basics are in place to protect staff and primates we have amplified preventative measures; personal protective equipment, hand-scrubs and sanitisers are expensive necessities. Living hand-to-mouth in the past was normal, but we have worked uncompromisingly to have a financial cushion; seeing our reserves diminishing makes us feel undone.
Still we persist; holding fast to all achievements, words of encouragement, donations and the outpouring of love towards our baboons; helping us feel optimistic.
Although we are logistically far from our supporters, people are finding ways to help.
We must implore you to acknowledge that now more than ever, every word of reassurance, each prayer we do not hear, social-media shares and every dollar makes a huge impact. We ask individuals at home to remember human and environmental health is interconnected; even though you might not see the impacts first-hand, you must believe that how you act matters.
C.A.R.E. must persist; the animal lives and futures are dependent on us and you must take action, not give up or be discouraged. When this has passed, nature must flourish if human-kind is to have a future.
You can help C.A.R.E. through; adopting a baboon, donating, contributing to the food-fund, purchasing from our online store and sharing social media posts; you will find all the ways to help on our website; www.primatecare.org/donate.
We can only achieve what the animals deserve if we have help;
we cannot do this alone,
we need you.
Above image; orphans still arriving despite lock-down. This little less than 2 week old infant's mother was killed on the roads nearby. The lock-down restrictions have eased and the roads which were unusually deserted became a safe area for foraging primates, it now seems that the roads are busier than usual and therefore, wildlife is in danger again.
Help us to help her and orphans like her, donate today, please, we need you. www.primatecare.org/donate
Written by Samantha Dewhirst, Co-Director