NCF urges ecological distancing to prevent future pandemic outbreak
The Director-General, Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, has reinforced the need to practice ‘ecological distancing’ as a means to prevent outbreak of future pandemics.
While speaking at the 32nd yearly general meeting of the foundation held virtually in Lagos, he stated that the COVID-19 pandemic should teach humanity some key lessons, particularly the possibility that the pandemic is of zoonotic (wildlife) origins.
Experts have observed that close proximity with some wildlife allowed several diseases to cross over to humans. More than half of all known infectious diseases and three quarters of new or emerging infectious diseases in humans come from animals even as humans continue to move into new environmental niches or come into contact with other animals, the number of the so-called “zoonotic diseases” may continue to increase.
Aminu-Kano said: “We should recognise that activities that shrink the space available for wildlife, such as deforestation, and those that bring us in much closer contact with them, such as killing and consumption of wild animals, will only lead to more frequent occurrences of pandemics in the future. My view is that unless we practice requisite ‘ecological distancing’, we will continue to be forced to practice ‘social distancing’ in future.”
He said the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that wildlife has a remarkable ability to recover fast and recolonise spaces from which it has been hitherto displaced once it is allowed to do so by the exclusion of harmful activities, adding that videos and pictures of charismatic animals roaming empty streets in cities around the world during lockdowns are a symbolic manifestation of this ability.
Aminu-Kano explained that the pandemic had impact on NCF’s projects, the people, its finances, and engagement with the public during the outgone year.
The Chairman, NCF National Executive Council, Chief Ede Dafinone, said its Green Recovery Nigeria (GRN) programme was successfully implemented in more than 14 states of the country despite the pandemic.
He said NCF and its partners planted over 1.7 million seedlings out of the 2 million seedlings targeted for the year 2020 across Nigeria. GRN is an important project for nature conservation, designed to help Nigeria recover its forest cover to 25 per cent of its landmass.
Also speaking, the President, Board of Trustees of the foundation, Philip Asiodu, said NCF had laudable, achievable plans for 2020 until COVID-19 came in the first quarter of the year and almost shut the whole world down.
“If people have listened, agreed and teamed up with NCF and other conservation NGOs, the world would not be experiencing this disruption to its happy living. We recorded a slight increase in membership base for the year, which encourages us to put in more efforts into becoming a mass membership organisation in the coming years,” he said.