As Nigeria joins the rest of the world in marking the 2016 World Wildlife Day, Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, has disclosed that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has lifted the suspension on trade between Nigeria and other countries in all endangered plants and animal species as well as related products.
The Minister has also asked Nigerians to do everything within the ambit of the law to protect the country’s wildlife, emphasising that the nation stands the risk of losing economic and social opportunities which wildlife presents to the economy in particular and the ecosystem in general.
Giving the charge in a press statement released in Abuja on the occasion of the 2016 World Wildlife Day, the Minister stated: “Endangering wild life threatens our personal wellbeing, the livelihood of local communities and our natural heritage. Wildlife forms a significant part of our biodiversity and plays a unique role as an indicator of ecological change. Without wildlife, we will lose the opportunity of economic and social value which wildlife brings to our ecosystem.”
World Wildlife Day is celebrated every 3rd of March as established by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on the 20th of December, 2013 at its 68th session. The day is set aside for all nations of the world to focus on the critical importance of protecting the fauna and flora (plants and animals) which are the world’s essential and natural heritage for the present and future generations. The day offers an opportunity to re-affirm the world’s commitments to the protection and preservation of wildlife, says the UNGA.
The theme for this year’s World Wild Life Day is “The future of wildlife is in our hands”, apparently implying a clarion call to all and sundry that protecting and conserving wild life throughout the world should be an individual and collective responsibility.
“We all have a role to play in the conservation and survival of our wildlife resources throughout the country,” said Mohammed.
Wildlife exploitation, illicit trade and habitat fragmentation are the key threats to biodiversity as they concern thousands of plants and animals’ species and can lead to extinction if not properly addressed, according to scientists. Hence, the UNGA resolution designated the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora secretariat as an instrument for monitoring illegal trade in wildlife species. CITES is also the facilitator for the global observance of the special day for wildlife.
In Nigeria, the Ministry is the focal point of implementation and has domesticated the convention, “the Endangered Species Act” to conserve wild species that are almost driven into extinction due to over exploitation, habitat change and illicit trafficking; such as cheetahs, lions, tigers, leopard, gorilla, manatee and high value timbers such as ebony and mahogany.
“We also need to protect many animals that are currently facing threats, such as elephants which are highly sourced for their ivory; pangolins for their scales; crocodiles for their skin and parrots as pets,” said the minister.
Ben Bem Goong, the Ministry’s spokesperson, submitted in a statement: “The Ministry of Environment under the leadership of Amina Mohammed and Ibrahim Usman Jibril (Minister of State) remains committed to saving our fragile wildlife from extinction and empowering communities whose livelihoods depends on wildlife resources. The Minister therefore urges every Nigerian to think of the future generation with a change of attitude towards wildlife exploitation and Conservation of the ecosystem.”
Nigeria was suspended from international trade in endangered species in March 2015 following its inability to submit an adequate National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) in accordance with the provisions of CITES.