“Are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant, except in a picture book?” – David Attenborough.
Of the five big games, it is not so easy to come by an elephant in Nigeria today – both in the wild and in captive areas – except you find yourself in the Yankari National Park, believed to have the largest and most important elephant herd of merely 100 to 150 or the Omu-Shasha Forest in Ogun State. The other place you can readily come by an elephant is at the Jos Wildlife Park where an 8-foot, one-tusked, African Savannah Elephant (Loxodonta africana) has been stranded in an isolated block for 38-years.
A report by the United Nations in 2015 asserts that up to 100 elephants – both Savannah and Forest species – are being slaughtered daily in Africa by poachers, primarily for their tusk which the Chinese market constantly demands.
As organisations and conservationists intensify efforts to halt illegal ivory trade and wildlife trafficking, recent research posits that the whole of Africa has an estimate of 352,271 Savanna Elephants left, a far cry from between 3 to 5 million censored by World Wildlife Foundation in the 20th century.
Some 25 years after a ban was placed on ivory trade, emerging markets still make it more difficult to address the menace. In 2015, the Chinese government, in a bid to reduce the demand for African tusks and protect wild elephants, made conscious efforts to curb ivory imports; however, reoccurring reports and pictures stress that a lot more elephants are being poached in southern and northern Nigeria and their tusks exported to Asian countries. The most recent that made the news are in Bauchi, Ogun, Osun and Idanre area of Ondo state, Nigeria.
Across the globe, as World Elephant Day is celebrated on August 12, one wonders what will become of the few elephants left in Nigeria; hence, the call for pragmatic, pro-wildlife actions to turn the tide and save the remaining elephants in Nigeria. The efforts of Nigeria-based organisations like Wildlife of Africa Conservation Initiative through her various Wildlife Education programmes and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation through her Forest Elephant Alive Campaign, among others, should not only be commended, they should be better funded to help them explore effective, science-based conservation strategies.
If we want future generations to live in a world where elephants thrive, the Wildlife Conservation Society has outlined and advocated the need to:
- Increase aerial surveillance in strongholds.
- Train and deploy more rangers in the protected areas.
- Supply new rangers with equipment.
- Assist the authorities in tracking and shutting down trafficking networks.
- Grow our community development programmes to support local communities to co-exist with wildlife.
By ‘Seyifunmi Adebote, Abuja