Tuesday 7 March 2017

Nigeria’s Wildlife Status Needs Urgent Action

Seyifunmi Adebote writes from Abuja on the status of Nigeria's wildlife.

After the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly on December, 1983, the 3rd of March was adopted as a day to celebrate World Wildlife Day yearly.  The day is observed to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora. World Wildlife Day also seeks to recognise the important roles of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in ensuring that international trade of Wild Flora and Fauna does not threaten the survival of species.

The theme of World Wildlife Day 2017, “Listen to the Young Voices, “is a step further from last year’s theme, “The Future of Wildlife is Our Hands,” to ensure the realisation of CITES objective in the 182- member states of the United Nations, Nigeria inclusive. It is believed that one-quarter of the world’s population is aged between 10 and 24; hence, as the future leaders and decision makers of the world, they could give more vigorous efforts if properly enlightened and encouraged to call the shots in making and taking decisive actions at both local and global levels to protect endangered wildlife.

The peculiarity of wildlife in Nigeria is highly disturbing, calling for urgent action, especially when one considers that the level of wildlife literacy in the country is next to none. With reference to last year’s World Environment Day, June 2016, Amina Mohammed who until her recent UN appointment was the Minister of Environment, said: “The status of wildlife in the country leaves much to be desired, as the rate of depletion of the population of animals like the elephants, leopards, giraffes and crocodiles amongst others is frightening. Today I know that if somebody says, what is really the status, or figures for wildlife in Nigeria? I am not sure I can tell you as the minister of environment. And if I am going to say something, it is probably 10 years old in terms of its information and data.”

It’s almost a year after Amina Mohammed promised that the government would develop the capacity to know what the baseline was, what animal was where, which was endangered, what needed to be done to protect those animals and to increase their population in Nigeria for the sake of the wildlife. The truth today is that presently Nigeria’s wildlife is fast disappearing than before, thus, begging the question of what wildlife heritage our generation will preserve.

For long, Nigeria has rested on an erroneous notion that our wild animals were plentiful and not under any threat of extinction. However, following the recent publication of the IUCN red list of globally threatened species which revealed that 148 animal and 146 plant species found in Nigeria were threatened at various degrees including some species near extinction, we hope it is not too late to right the wrongs. Out of the very large landmass that Nigeria boasts of, we are not assured of the functionality of our  seven National Parks, we are not sure they really are a refuge for what we have left of our wildlife population, we are yet to see wisdom in prioritising our wildlife heritage, we have chosen not to take a cue from smaller countries like Gabon with 13 well-managed national parks, Egypt with 25 national parks and Kenya with 23 national parks aside from game reserves, wildlife sanctuary and other forms of protected areas in countries like Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania and Madagascar, which are  clear examples for Nigeria to follow.

“100 Cross River gorillas remain in Nigeria”; “There are approximately 450 savanna elephants in Nigeria”; “Fewer than 50 lions remain in Nigeria”; “Value of illegal wildlife trade is 50 – 150 billion USD per year”; “Over 56 billion farmed animals are killed by humans every year”; “Half of world’s wildlife was lost in last 40 years”; “100,000 African elephants were killed in last three years for their ivory”; “Less than 7,100 cheetahs remain in the wild”; “Population of birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish has declined by 52 percent globally between 1970 – 2010.”

Reading these and many more true anti-wildlife statistics tells that the time for urgent action is now. My interview with hunters and most recent research in protected areas within northern Nigeria revealed that there is lesser wildlife in our wild than we think. Regrettably true, human factors like hunting, domestic grazing, land deforestation, mining, road/rail/dam construction, aerodromes, power line, and related activities have destroyed our wildlife flora and fauna than natural factors like climate change and fire occurrences by over 40 per cent in the last 25 years. Another adjoining factor is that occupants of host communities earmarked as protected areas see their surrounding areas as traditional hunting grounds and strongly believe it is legal to kill whatever and at any rate.

The Ministry of Environment must stand up to its pro-wildlife responsibilities, and not just dwell on sanitation and other urban activities. The Federal Ministry of Environment and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development, must create an operational synergy between associated government and non-government stakeholders among which are: Nigeria National Park Service, the Forestry Research lnstitute of Nigeria, State Ministries of Agriculture and Natural  Resources, the Division of Wildlife Services and Conservation, Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA), games reserves, zoological and botanical gardens, World Conservation Society, Nigeria Conservation Foundation, Biodiversity Conservation Programme, etc.

If Nigeria must go for wild, if we must have something to teach the unborn ones about our wildlife heritage, the foundation is in placing wildlife as a priority sector, then the appointment of competent and devoted hands that will faithfully uphold the hundreds of excellent national and international conventions, acts, frameworks and legislations without compromise which Nigeria has agreed to, among other UN member states.

Monitoring and data compilation must complement environmental education and awareness; the fiercest of wild animals cannot protect themselves from those out to poach or illegally traffic them.  It’s up to us; together we can restore Nigeria’s wildlife heritage.

Source: The Nation Online
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