In Harare, Zimbabwe, there has been an upsurge of birds in the Country’s foremost tourism center but no tourist attraction has been recorded in recent time as a result of COVID-19.
With an estimated 400 species of birds on an idyllic spot on Zimbabwe’s Lake Chivero, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Harare, the Kuimba Shiri bird sanctuary has been drawing tourists for more than 15 years.
Perhaps, the southern African country’s only bird park has survived tumultuous times, including violent land invasions and a devastating economic collapse but the outbreak of coronavirus is proving a stern test.
“I thought I had survived the worst, but this coronavirus is something else,” said owner Gary Strafford. “One-third of our visitors are from China. They stopped coming in February … and when we were shut down in March, that was just unbelievable.”
A life-long bird enthusiast, Strafford, 62, established the center for injured, orphaned and abandoned birds in 1992 and tourism has kept the park going.
With Zimbabwe’s inflation rising to over 750%, tourism establishments are battling a vicious economic downturn worsened by the new coronavirus travel restrictions.
Zimbabwe’s tourism was already facing problems. The country recorded just over 2 million visitors in 2019, an 11% decline from the previous year, according to official figures. However, tourism remained one of the country’s biggest foreign currency earners, along with minerals and tobacco.
Now tourism “is dead because of coronavirus,” said Tinashe Farawo, the spokesman for the country’s national parks agency. National parks and other animal sanctuaries such as Kuimba Shiri are battling to stay afloat, he said.
“We are in trouble. All along we have been relying on tourism to fund our conservation … now what do we do?” he asked.