“Prevention is better than cure.” This is a widely-used phrase which means it’s easier to stop something from happening than to repair the damages. In some cases, like wildlife, the damage could be beyond repair.
As the world annually dedicate March 3 to celebrate the relevance of wildlife resources, this year’s World Wildlife Day brings us the opportunity to principally understand that “prevention (of wildlife) is better than the loss.” Hence the need to join stakeholders to educate and engage the public on the apropos need to save our wild – flora and fauna, with 2018 focus on the “Big Cats.”
Large predatory cats like the lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar, cheetah, puma and snow leopard are collectively categorised as “Big Cats”. The consistent decline in the number of these unique creatures from the wild has given rise to the need for urgent and feasible actions to prevent the extinction of these “Big Cats”.
A century ago, records confirm the abundance of the tropical “Big Cats” in their thousands across Nigeria and the African continent, at large. Today, despite lots of censuses, trap cameras, and field research, the presence of these unique creatures is scarcely seen in some hitherto predominant areas, let alone having a figure we can be proud of. So, what happened? Poaching, habitat loss, desertification, bush burning, deforestation, and human-animal conflict.
Like the World Wildlife Day 2018 theme heralds, “Big Cats: Predators Under Threat,” the threat of our big cats being extinct is real. However, hope isn’t lost. In Nigeria, National Parks like Kainji Lake, Yankari, and Cross River can still boast of very few species. The recent discoveries in Gashaka Gumti National Park have birth more prospects to promote efforts in nature conservation, management, and ecotourism.
Beyond Nigeria, other African countries like Tanzania, Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa display worthy examples of the possibility of generating massive foreign exchange consistently through their multi-billion-dollar ecotourism industries. Proper management of parks and conservation areas also provides exciting employment to millions of people across the sphere of hospitality, exhibitions, group visits, tours, and research.
To address the recent obnoxious environmental attitude seen in Nigeria, as in other countries, there is an increased need for awareness, advocacy, local engagement and enforcement programs to end (or least control) threat while ensuring a rich wildlife for posterity.
More of Nigeria’s vast scenery enriched and endowed with wildlife should be gazetted and wildlife laws enforced therein. Efforts should be made for Nigerians to adopt a positive lifestyle to enhance and tap into nature by growing enthusiasm for science, research, and innovation. More stringent punishments should be passed and upheld to curb the illegal, massive capturing and trafficking of wildlife resources across the world.
The legendary conservationist, Gerald Durrell, puts it in proper perspective when he said: “Thousands (of animals) are liable to vanish from the earth unless mankind stops being a predator and becomes a protector… (Animals) have nobody to speak for them except us, the human beings who share the world with them but do not own it.”
By Udo-Azugo Somtochukwu, Lagos; firstname.lastname@example.org