In the dark early days of the coronavirus pandemic, when a death toll of 1 million was still unimaginable, there was one bright spot: nature appeared to be healing. With humans under lockdown, stories circulated about unusual animal sightings, like wild goats taking over a town in Wales — and then became a joke about the public’s thirst for signs of regeneration: New Yorkers claimed the return of Elmo to Times Square as proof of a great earthly rebalancing.
The idea of nature resurging offered relief from worries about the pandemic’s human suffering, and hope for the planet: Was nature still capable of healing itself, if just given some alone time?
It’s probably not that simple. Scientists could take years to establish the net impact of the great “anthropause,” as some have dubbed it, on wildlife and the environment, but there are already signs of fallout. Lockdowns have put tourism, some scientific field research, and surveillance of some protected areas on pause. More poachers have come in their place, conservationists in Asia, Africa and the Americas tell CNN.