WildAid, a non governmental organisation (NGO), has partnered with the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Lagos State Government and Nollywood to launch a campaign on wildlife conservation.
President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), WildAid, Mr Peter Knights, at a news conference on Thursday, January 6, 2022 in Lagos, said that the campaign is also to seek reduction in illegal bushmeat consumption.
Knights said that the campaign also seeks to support enforcement activities to tackle illegal wildlife trade and raise awareness of disappearing wildlife using the slogans “Keep them wild, keep us safe” and “Poaching steals from us all.”
“With its dynamism and cultural influence, Nigeria can turn things round for wildlife and become a regional leader in wildlife protection, which can boost the economy through tourism and safeguard the Nigerian public from zoonotic disease.
”Today, Nigeria has no surviving cheetahs, rhinos or giraffes, and fewer than 50 lions, 100 gorillas, 500 elephants and 2,300 chimpanzees left in the wild,” Knights said.
The WildAid CEO noted that despite ongoing conservation efforts, poaching for body parts and meat along with habitat loss from deforestation, infrastructure development, and agricultural expansion threaten wildlife in Nigeria.
He said that Illegal bushmeat consumption is widespread across Nigeria’s top cities.
Delivering her goodwill message, Minister of State for Environment, Mrs Sharon Ikeazor, said the Federal Government is committed to protecting, restoring, and promoting sustainable use of the nation’s biodiversity.
Ikeazor said that the ministry would support the sustainable management of forests, combat desertification, land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss.
“Our collaboration with relevant agencies and stakeholders to stem the tide of wildlife over exploitation and trafficking has led to the development and implementation of strategies to combat corruption risk associated with transnational organised wildlife crime.
”Consumption of bushmeat has been linked to zoonotic diseases, such as HIV-AIDS, Ebola, SARS, Lassa fever, monkey pox and COVID-19,” Ikeazor said.
Also delivering his speech, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said: “We have not been very good custodians of our ecosystems.
“We plunder, poison, extract and deplete our biodiversity not realising that without the free gifts of nature these biomes provide, we will cease to exist.
“Disrupting the delicate balances of nature with our heavy human footprint causes major repercussions such as severe weather changes and biological threats like COVID-19 and Ebola.
“If we continue this path without a major and drastic reversal, we are inducing an existential threat scenario, meaning the earth may become too hostile for humans or other life forms to exist,” Abayomi said.
In his goodwill message, Mr Kolawole Adekola, Director of Forestry Department, Federal Ministry of Environment, said that an aggressive, high-scale and continuous publicity campaign is imperative to raise awareness of the precarious trends in wildlife exploitation and trafficking.
Adekola said that participatory approach towards achieving sustainable management and utilisation of the forest ecosystem resources also needs to be promoted.
Nollywood Actress, Stephanie Linus, Comedian Emmanuela and Music star Davido, all of them WildAid ambassadors, lent their voices to the campaign against illegal wildlife trade and bushmeat consumption.
WildAid is currently working with the Lagos government to update its wildlife protection laws.
It is also partnering Nigeria Customs Service and the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) to support efforts to tackle the illegal wildlife trade and prevent the use of Nigerian ports and airports as transit hubs for wildlife trafficking.
By Fabian Ekeruche