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The sudden absence of tourists has halted income for 8,000 workers who depend on visitors to Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, a home for the continent’s endangered species.
The loss of tourists is coupled with national and local governments’ need to cut costs while dedicating resources to coping with the virus.
As a result, many park rangers have lost their jobs amid a national travel shutdown. That has opened the reserve to poachers and illicit hunters, some of which cross into the reserve from neighboring Tanzania.
Former poachers and bushmeat hunters had worked in the tourist industry but are now returning to their former pursuits because they have no other way to support their families, officials said.
The area under threat is a corridor of the so-called “Great Migration,” the annual trek made by more than two million animals from Tanzania’s Serengeti grasslands into the reserve.
“If we are going to seek resiliency for conservation systems, we need to figure out other financial inputs so that a shock in one sector does not undermine the entire conservation effort,” said Catherine Semcer at the Property and Environment Research Center.

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