The Embassy of the United States of America in Nigeria has joined other stakeholders across the world to show solidarity for Nigeria’s wildlife resources and to restate the need to save the remainder of the country’s threatened species.
March 3, designated the World Wildlife Day, and which is the signing date of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), remains a significant date that brings attention to wildlife across the world, emphasising the need for their protection, conservation, as well as for public enlightenment and local engagement.
To mark World Wildlife Day 2018 themed “Big Cats: Predators Under Threat”, the Embassy, in conjunction with a non-for-profit organisation, the Wildlife of Africa Conservation Initiative, hosted an event at the US Embassy in Abuja on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.
The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, in his opening remarks, commented on how blessed Nigeria is and how unique Nigerians are.
His words: “The features of hard work, creativity, resilience, warmth, and friendliness I see in Nigerians make a unique proof of nationality. I also see in Nigeria, the level of her diversity – in language, food, tradition, and faith. It is one of her strengths and a constant representation of the United States – Nigeria tapestry.”
Challenging Nigerians on the need to appreciate and protect her wildlife resources, the ambassador said: “One of the things I care about the most is the great cats. They represent a symbol of power and awe. The Big Cats reminds us that there is something greater than us. This celebration is not about the Big Cats, the National Parks or the Federal Government; it is about Nigeria and what Nigerians together have that no one else in the world can boast of. There is only one way to keep the cats alive – that’s through you, Nigerians. Most of them remain a tangible symbol of leadership and purpose.”
Conservator-General of National Parks Service, Ibrahim Goni, while addressing the audience, shared some of the Federal Government’s efforts in conserving the Big Cats, as well as other wildlife resources, across the countries’ seven national parks covering a total of 20, 730kmsq.
“There are plans by the Federal Government of Nigeria to increase the forest areas by establishing National Parks. The processes, upon completion by the relevant stakeholders involved, will be forwarded to the Parliament for approval. We are hoping that, three years from now, there will be an increase; it is up to Nigerians not to allow Nigeria to lose her Big Cats,” the Conservator-General noted.
As part of the event, the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival screened two of its movies: The Silent Death of Lions (Tanzania) and Tree Lions (Uganda), birthing discussions on wildlife conservation, education, and advocacy, particularly the adaptation to local communities in Nigeria.
In attendance were the Director-General of National Environment Standard Regulation and Enforcement Agency (NESRA) represented by Mr. Simon Joshua; West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change Technical Advisor, Mr. Kwane Awere-Gyekye; members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); civil society organisations (CSOs) and other participants.
By Seyifunmi Adebote, Abuja