An NGO, Wildlife of Africa Conservation Initiative (WACI), has called for re-introduction of Cheetahs into the Nigeria’s wildlife, because of their roles in ensuring a healthy ecosystem.
Its Executive Director, Ms Adenike Adeiga, made this call at an event marking the 2020 International Cheetahs Day, held at the National Park Headquarters in Abuja on Friday, December 4, 2020.
The Day, marked annually on Dec. 4, was founded in 1990 by an American Scientist, Dr Laurie Marker, Executive Director, Cheetah Conservation Fund, to celebrate Cheetahs and raise awareness about the threat of their extinction.
Adeiga said Cheetahs are iconic species that could exude a sense of national pride.
She said that demographic and environmental stochasticity, anthropogenic activities and density dependent affluence, had driven Cheetahs to local extinction in the country.
“Cheetahs are among the top predators known for their speed and agility and, like other predators, they play an important part of a healthy ecosystem.
“They do this by catching sick or injured animals, thereby helping in natural selection and establishment of healthier prey populations as the fittest animals are left to survive and reproduce.
“They also help to limit the growth of prey populations and prevent over grazing of ranges,” the executive director said.
Adeiga said that Cheetahs also feed other animals in the ecosystem such as vultures, jackals, beetles and other scavengers by leaving the carcasses of their preys.
She said re-introducing Cheetahs into the wild in a “re-wilding programme” would, therefore, lead to the restoration of viable free-ranging populations of the species in the grasslands of Nigeria.
Adeiga added that the re-introduction would also have an umbrella effect in the conservation and protection of many other species within the grasslands ecosystem and habitats.
In an interview on the sidelines, she said the purpose of the programme was to seek the Federal Government’s approval for their proposal to re-introduce Cheetahs into the ecosystem.
Adeiga said the reintroduction proposal was to also raise awareness on the fact that Cheetahs were endangered and could not be found in Nigeria anymore.
“We are also here to see the possibilities of getting support from other individuals in terms of scientific approach and guidance for the reintroduction of Cheetahs into wildlife in Nigeria,” she said.
Responding earlier, Dr Ibrahim Goni, the Conservator-General, National Parks Service, said that Cheetahs were indeed hunted into extinction.
Goni assured the stakeholders that the agency would work with WAIC toward the re-introduction of Cheetahs into the nation’s wildlife.
“Cheetahs are the delights of most audiences and visitors at the parks; so, we need to support your efforts to re-introduce them and create awareness on why Cheetahs are important in our wildlife.
“We entered several collaborations with many agencies and organisations aimed at ensuring that we improve the protection of our natural resources in these parks,” he said.
Highlights of the events include: presentation of award by WACI to the conservator-general, as Life Time Patron, for his support to wildlife conservation and donations of souvenirs to rangers in appreciation of their works.
WAIC was founded by Felix Abayomi, and the organisation works to protect wildlife in Nigeria and Africa, through the help of volunteers with a vision to inspire a growing generation to take positive actions for wildlife.
WAIC carries out its work through research work, education outreach, community programmes and Environment Day celebrations.
By Okeoghene Akubuike