But the government may not be able to safely move money or supplies to reserves in occupied territories, putting the animals at risk of starvation, Mr Vasyliuk said. His conservation group has raised money for the reserves, including paying local grain farmers to feed the animals in Askania-Nova, he said.
Some administrative offices of occupied reserves have been looted, Mr. Vasyliuk, and many staff members have been evacuated. His organization has worked to provide food, water and medicine to workers in occupied territories and to help displaced workers find housing, he said, adding that some members of his own conservation group had become refugees.
War also has opportunity costs, as funds and priorities shift from conservation to human survival. “We tend to focus on the kind of direct stuff — the big fires and plumes of smoke, damaged oil infrastructure,” said Mr. weir. “But really, it’s usually the collapse of environmental governance that leads to this kind of death of a thousand cuts and then, of course, has this lasting legacy.”
Refuge and Reconstruction
Despite all the damage war can do, in isolated cases human conflict can form a shield for nature.
The most famous example is Korea’s Demilitarized Zone, a thin ribbon of land that serves as a buffer between North and South Korea. It is completely off limits to people, protected by guards, fences and land mines. But in the absence of humans, it provides a haven for rare flora and fauna, including red-headed and white-necked cranes, Asiatic black bears, and possibly Siberian tigers. (The mines can pose a danger to the larger land animals.)
In some cases, war can also disrupt extractive industries. During World War II, commercial fishing in the North Sea almost completely ceased due to the requisition of fishing boats, restrictions on their movement, and the drafting of fishermen for the war. The populations of many commercially harvested fish species recovered.
But the gains may be temporary. In the early years of Nicaragua’s civil war, the forests along the country’s Atlantic coast grew as people fled and abandoned their farms. But when the war ended, the residents returned and… deforestation resumed; nearly twice as much land was deforested during that period as had been reforested during the early war, scientists found.