A loss of R53 million in revenue has been forced on KwaZulu-Natal’s parks because of the COVID-19 lockdown, which means less money for anti-poaching operations and wildlife monitoring, severely compromising the Big Five.

weenen game reserve kwazulu natal south africa wildlife
The Weenen Game Reserve, part of the Ezemvelo group of reserves. Photo: Facebook.

The Democratic Alliance has called on travelers to help Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife by making a day visit or stay-over at one of the many destinations managed by Ezemvelo, which “could help drag the entity away from the edge of the financial abyss.”

“Cutbacks in anti-poaching helicopter operations, coupled with other major cutbacks in wildlife monitoring, have already begun as Ezemvelo grapples with a R53 million loss in revenue,” said Heinz De Boer, the DA’s KZN spokesman on Economic Development and Tourism.

He said rhino poaching figures had already gone up by 3 percent in the fourth quarter of the financial year, as Ezemvelo renegotiated contracts with service providers like helicopter companies.

“The vulture project in the Drakensberg is among the projects that have been left without airborne monitoring.The entity has been dealt a double blow during the lockdown, having to refund R2 million in accommodation fees while it under-collected on gate fees, the sale of consumables, and fuel at provincial parks. R5.2 million was cumulatively lost in wildlife sales and hunting package income.

“There has been an inability to renovate tourist or staff accommodation in the flagship Hluhluwe, Mfolosi Park, and much-needed computers and IT infrastructure could not be purchased. Hundreds of critical vacancies are unable to be filled, adding to the degradation of facilities and the risk of more poaching of endangered wildlife.