Corona virus impact for wildlife conservation

Dear reader,

those of you who know me will understand that this letter is the type of letter
I hate to write. But in view of the real risks for so many innocent animals I am left with no choice but to address you with this plea for help…

The wildlife rescue centres I set up in Indonesia were just barely able to keep up their important work thanks to the visiting schools and caring volunteers that have now vanished because of the Covoid-19 pandemic. Official travel restrictions as well as the deep fear of getting sick or stuck far away from loved ones have caused a dramatic drop in funds to feed and otherwise help the animals in our care. Also some sponsors have postponed their commitment because of the issues they face with the present crisis.

Our animal care staff cannot work from home as is recommended by so many governments and companies. The animals need around-the-clock care, the trees in our nurseries need to be watered. But our staff members are presently no longer receiving a salary and I feel the suffering of their families whose husband, wife or child has to go out there at the risk of falling ill. It is already not easy to work with these small incomes that are all that conservation projects are able to pay. But to work without pay while the prices for products are simultaneously rising, is disastrous for keeping up high spirits and putting the animals first.

It is not helpful that this crisis is likely to last for months before things return to somewhat normal. So I fear for the animals we thought we had rescued from a worse fate and I am very worried about the staff taking care of them. How will we feed them all? I wished we had reserves to deal with such emergencies but we don’t…

The Yogyakarta Nature Conservation Foundation has sent out an SOS to the Ministry of Forestry to step in and help the animals to have a second chance of freedom. I hear the trembling voices of the staff members on the phone, the panic, the fear for having to give up what they worked for so hard and for so many years. Closure seems unavoidable… Where will the many animals go? Five giant male orangutans? So many birds, reptiles and other animals…

At the Masarang Foundation the people continue to grow and plant the trees for the Temboan project and we collect food donations to add to our own organically grown food for the animals. But I can see and sense the worry here too, what will tomorrow bring? So far, all the publicity in social media and on television is not making a difference. On top of everything, our orangutans in Sintang and the many primates at the Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Center could potentially also get infected by the virus.

It is with a heavy heart that I ask you to please consider helping us to navigate through this difficult period while you are probably worried about how the virus might affect your own family and work. If you can spare a moment to visit our website
and make a donation to help us to help the animals I would be grateful forever.

Thank you, Willie Smits