Ground Pangolin (Luke O'Brien)

Eight reasons to be cheerful right now

Dominic CouzensBy Dominic Couzens
17th April 2020

Dominic is a Naturetrek tour leader and one of Britain's
best known and most prolific natural history writers.

Despite the doom and gloom, there are positive things happening in the world right now – pollution levels have plummeted, Australia is recovering from the bush fires, over-crowded cities are having a breather and, most excitingly, you’ve got plenty of time to dream and plan your next wildlife holiday. When we’re able to get travelling again, the world will never have seemed so inviting! So here are 8 hopes for wildlife and travel which might brighten your day…

1. For wildlife, it’s business as usual…
COVID-19, horrible though it is, is a human pandemic. Out in the rest of the world, birds are singing, butterflies are dancing, bats are whisking across the night sky, the seas teem with life and an explosion of spring flowers is sprinkled across the northern hemisphere. It’s the same as last year and next spring it will happen again.

2. Some areas are recovering
With a quarter of the world’s population in lockdown at the time of writing, there is evidence that wildlife is benefiting. Fewer people will be tramping over Britain’s beauty spots and wildlife places worldwide. There is no getting away from the human tragedy, but these difficult months for us could allow the earth to breathe and refresh in a way that it hasn’t for years.

3. It’ll be there next year, bigger and better
As wildlife enthusiasts, we are all desperate to get back to what we love doing. And while some pursuits – professional sport, concerts, clubs – may take a long time to recover, we hope that wildlife will be gloriously the same, or even better, the very moment we get back to it. In fact, for those who wish to, Naturetrek is even now taking bookings for your wildlife travel in the autumn and beyond.

4. Carbon emissions have plunged worldwide
Meanwhile, the lockdown in China and the reduction of global economic activity – especially air travel – has had a large impact on reducing global emissions of various noxious gases. In China, emissions dropped by a quarter in February, and the reduction of harmful air pollution could already have prevented many thousands more premature deaths than COVID-19 has caused in the same time frame. The reduction, however temporary, of emissions has to be good news, and it might have much more far-reaching impacts (see below).

5. It’s a boom time for vicarious travelling
We cannot travel physically at the moment, but we can travel digitally, in our reading and in our imagination – and some of us might have forgotten what fun that is. All around the internet, people are live-streaming sightings from a variety of locations, from quetzal-filled cloud forests to American backyards and closer to home. It isn’t the same, of course, but it’s still fun. We can binge-watch David Attenborough documentaries. We can read wildlife blogs and travel books. And – seriously – why not binge-read the many trip reports on the Naturetrek website, and dream? I can freely admit that this is what I have been doing. South-east Brazil sounds like heaven. And don’t forget to take a look at your own photos and memories from previous trips!


Scottish Wildlife Trust's Osprey camera


Cornell Lab's Panama Fruit Feeders camera


Africam's Cateye camera

6. Pangolins may be saved
Any type of coronavirus affecting humans will have spread from animals, and in the case of COVID-19, it is possible that the disease was transmitted to humans via pangolins (having originated in bats). Ironically, pangolins are the most trafficked animal in the world (besides humans), with illegal trafficking for quack medicines and food rife, especially in Asia. Now, scientists are advising that any handling of pangolins could carry significant risks. It cannot be too optimistic to suggest, now, that the trade in these marvellous, scaly mammals could now decline and perhaps drop significantly.

7. Live animal markets may finally be banned
Everyone now knows that the source of the pandemic was a live animal market in Wuhan, China. These markets are the source of terrible abuse of many animals and were a monstrosity even before the outbreak. China has at last shut all its wild animal markets and is clamping down trade in wildlife. Other Asian countries are beginning to follow suit. This is unequivocally good news for wildlife.

8. And finally…
What a moment it will be when we can finally go on holiday once more and enjoy wildlife watching. After these dark months are over, it will feel very special indeed. It will also be a great moment for our many partners around the world who rely on the incomes we provide them from our careful tourism. Until then, stay safe at home, and we hope to see you travelling back with us soon.

We’ve been nominated ‘Best Safari, Wildlife & Nature Holiday Company’ in the prestigious 2020 British Travel Awards. All voters will be entered into an official prize draw to win a Rhine or Danube cruise! Please click here to vote.