Conservation & community in the time of COVID

COVID-19 has had a massive impact on all of us across the globe and we have had to adapt and change; to think differently, act differently and take part in behaviours that we never imagined. There is a question that keeps being asked to many of us at Tanda Tula: How has COVID-19 affected conservation in the Timbavatiand what impact is it having on the communities?

With the tourism sector being hit hard over a long period of time, job loss and retrenchments have been inevitable. Many members of the communities living on the periphery of the Greater Krugerarea are becoming hungry and sadly the reality is, that soon the temptation of illicit means of acquiring food or money will eventually become too great. This is where we have stepped in. All of us who have stayed at Tanda Tula Safari Campduring lockdown have had to come together and help in many different ways. Our areas of responsibility have grown, and we have embraced our own surrounding communities even further, helping wherever we can, as well as having become even more entrenched in the anti-poaching and land management activities within the Timbavati.

 As the team on the ground we have had to continue to keep the wilderness areas protected, so voluntarily, we take part in night patrols within the Timbavati, keeping a vigilant eye out and at the same time creating a continuous presence. We also carry on with bush clearing projects and road maintenance. We have even had to go out and fight fires, did you read the incredible storyof us and some of our neighbouring lodges all coming together to beat down the flames of a bush fire before it got out of control? 

Sadly, without guests, we no longer have the contribution from Timbavati levies toward many of the anti-poaching projects. One way we, as the Timbavati Reserve protectors have managed to help, is by supporting the familiesof the anti-poachers with food parcels.

Food is a source of life and our contributions do not end here. We have also worked closely with NGO’s such as Hlokomela to create and deliver food parcelsto our surrounding community members, but also to our own staff who are sitting at home waiting patiently to come back to work. 

We have also got into our kitchen at Tanda Tula, with Chef Ryan in the lead, and have made meals for people in our community who really need it. We have to take our hats off to the Timbavati Foundation – they have done such incredible work for the community members and they continue to keep us part of these unbelievably important and powerful projects.

Lastly, through Don Scott our team leader, Tanda Tula has played a large role in helping TBCSA with their protocols for the Tourism industry at large. It was important to make sure that the requirements set out by government were achievable on ground level and we were in a fortunate position to be able to tweak and change a few of the initial needs.

So yes, we have all been affected by this strange virus, and we have all had to come together and help in many different ways. So far, we are still able to protect these wild areas and the people they support, but it is not a bottomless pit. We have to get back to work, we have to open our doors and allow tourism to flourish again as without it, there is far too much at risk for the people of South Africa and for the wild spaces that we protect. The consequences are too scary to think about, so we appeal to you all to support us.

We know it is a fine line we are all walking, and we need to protect everyone from this awful virus, but we also need to protect livelihoods. The tourism sector is the last to be allowed to open by government. If we cannot welcome visitors then we will not be able to operate, which in turn, means that we are unable to support and protect our communities and these beautiful wild places.