Elephant Herd in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, Photo © WCS Tanzania

JRS awards a special series of grants to address COVID-19 impacts in African parks


For Immediate Release

CONTACT: Acting Executive Directors at director @ jrsbiodiversity.org, (206) 454-7915.

JRS awards a special series of grants to address COVID-19 impacts in African parks

SEATTLE, Washington – December 7, 2020 – There is an inextricable link between ecosystem health and human health, and the COVID-19 global pandemic is a tragic case in point. The scientific community has long known that biodiversity is critical to the systems that support human life. Well-managed protected areas that maintain biodiverse ecosystems are better able to support food and water security, human livelihoods, and overall human health and well-being. Conversely, human encroachment into natural areas that degrades habitat and increases human-wildlife conflict and contact can make it easy for zoonotic diseases to move from animals to humans, threatening human health.

National parks and other protected areas are not immune to the unique threats created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The link between ecosystem health and human health is a two-way street, and significant and enduring revenue loss resulting from the pandemic threatens the biodiversity conservation work within these protected areas.  The JRS Biodiversity Foundation joins others in the philanthropic community in trying to respond to this crisis through a special series of awards to secure the scientific capacity for biodiversity monitoring in select African parks that are threatened by revenue loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. Four awards totaling $1,224,240 will sustain critical work in twelve protected areas across eight countries. Award recipients include the Wildlife Conservation Society, Frankfurt Zoological Society – U.S., African Parks, and South African National Parks.

Biodiversity Monitoring in Boma, Afi and Mbe, Nouabalé-Ndoki, and Tarangire Parks

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) receives a $525,000 grant to sustain at-risk biodiversity monitoring and data collection efforts threatened by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for two years at four priority areas in Africa: Boma National Park in South Sudan, Mbe and Afi Reserves in Nigeria, Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of the Congo, and Tarangire National Park in Tanzania. This critical support will directly impact a range of activities from protecting the most vulnerable wildlife from illegal human activity to ensuring rare ecosystems remain intact and healthy.

“WCS commends JRS for investing at this critical time in the continuation of vitally important biodiversity monitoring for parks and protected areas in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Dr. Caleb McClennen, WCS Vice President of Global Conservation. “Through our long-term support to protected areas, WCS tracks globally important wildlife such as elephants and apes to ensure conservation is informed by the best available data and information. COVID-19 continues to impact our conservation work, but we are similarly committed to maintaining our investment in the planet’s most important wildlife strongholds to ensure durable local conservation outcomes that contribute to global planetary health.”

Biodiversity Monitoring in Serengeti, Mahale, and Gonarezhou National Parks    

Frankfurt Zoological Society – U.S. (FZS-US) receives a $280,000 grant to sustain biodiversity research and monitoring activities for two years in three national parks most impacted by COVID-19: Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, Mahale Mountains National Park in Tanzania, and Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe. This project is led by Dr. Peyton West, Executive Director of FZS-US, and will support long-term monitoring of elephants, chimpanzees, wildlife ranging behavior, weather, hydrology, and more.

Research and monitoring for evidence-based management in Garamba (DRC) and Zakouma (Chad) National Parks

African Parks receives a $210,500 grant to sustain research and monitoring programs that are essential to effective conservation at two protected areas:  Greater Zakouma Ecosystem in Chad and Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Dr. Angela Gaylard, Head of Science Support at African Parks, will lead this effort to ensure evidence-based management through the ecological understanding generated by research and monitoring activities at these National Parks.

Science support, monitoring, and capacity development for biodiversity conservation in South Africa

South African National Parks (SANParks) receives a $208,740 grant to ensure continued employment of key staff and critical biodiversity data collection for two years at three national parks in South Africa: Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Mountain Zebra National Park, and Kruger National Park. “SANParks is enormously grateful for the JRS grant which will ensure both continuity of long-term biodiversity data collection and archiving as well as supporting critical human capital development in the biodiversity sector in South Africa,” said Project Director Stef Freitag-Ronaldson. “This supports significant prior investment and helps bridge the current stark financial realities induced by COVID-19.”


About the JRS Biodiversity Foundation – The mission of the JRS Biodiversity Foundation is to increase access to and use of information that will lead to greater biodiversity conservation and more sustainable development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Founded in 2004, the JRS Biodiversity Foundation supports the   capacity of institutions and people who collect, manage, and share biodiversity data for Sub-Saharan Africa. JRS’ grantees connect scientific knowledge to stakeholders who make and influence decisions that are crucial to conserving biodiversity. The foundation has awarded $US 20.3 million in grants since 2007. Visit JRS online at http://jrsbiodiversity.org.

About the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) – WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. The goal of WCS is to conserve the world’s largest wild places in 14 priority regions, home to more than 50% of the planet’s biodiversity. WCS invests in abating threats to wildlife; targets large, iconic, wide-ranging species; and protects regions that are biologically outstanding and where the long-term conservation of species and ecological processes is viable. Visit WCS online at https://www.wcs.org.

About Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) – FZS conserves wildlife and ecosystems focusing on protected areas and outstanding wild places. They prioritize large, high biodiversity, predominantly intact areas in which natural processes take place largely without human disturbance. FZS works in partnership with conservation authorities, local communities, governments and other non-profits in 18 countries on four continents. Grant funding was provided to Frankfurt Zoological Society – U.S. Visit FZS online at https://www.fzs.org.

About African Parks – African Parks is a non-profit conservation organization that takes on the complete responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments and local communities. They currently manage 18 national parks and protected areas in 11 countries covering over 34 million hectares. Grant funding was provided to the African Parks Foundation of America. Visit African Parks online at https://www.africanparks.org.

About South African National Parks (SANParks)- SANParks is a public entity under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environmental Affairs, where inclusive conservation as opposed to previous policies of exclusion, are central to advancing the policies in line with the National Development Framework for Sustainable Development and the national Development Plan. SANParks manages a system of 19 functional national parks in seven of the nine provinces of South Africa with a total area of just over 4 million hectares comprising 67% of the protected areas under state management. Their mission is to develop, protect, expand, manage and promote a system of sustainable national parks that represents natural and cultural heritage assets, through innovation, excellence, responsible tourism and just socio- economic benefit for current and future generations. Visit SANParks online at https://www.sanparks.org.

Contact at JRS Biodiversity Foundation: Acting Executive Director, director @ jrsbiodiversity.org, +1 (206) 454-7915

Contact at WCS: Stephen Sautner, Executive Director of Communications, ssautner @ wcs.org, +1 (908) 247-2585

Contact at FZS-US: Peyton West, Executive Director, peyton.west @ fzs.org, +1 (202) 669-7863

Contact at African Parks: Fran Read, Global Media Manager, franr @ africanparks.org, +44 74 1501 2102

Contact at SANParks: Reynold Thakhuli, Acting Head of Communications, rey.thakhuli @ sanparks.org, 073 373 4999