WildAid launches conservation campaign, seeks stakeholders’ support
United States-based environmental organisation, WildAid, has launched a public awareness conservation campaign in Nigeria to reduce demand for illegal bushmeat in major urban centres.
The campaign developed in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Environment and other government agencies is targeted at inspiring Nigerians to end illegal bushmeat consumption and ivory trade.
WildAid plans to support enforcement activities, tackle the illegal wildlife trade and raise awareness of disappearing species, using the slogans ‘Keep them wild, keep us safe’ and ‘Poaching steals from us all’.
The launching held in Lagos, last week, attracted notable personalities including, the Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor; Consul General, United States of America, Claire Pierangelo and Acting Head of Mission, Federal Republic of Germany, Dr. Bernd Von Munchow-Pohl.
Other influential voices that graced the occasion are Afrobeats artiste; David Adeleke; also Known as Davido, Nollywood actress, Stephanie Linus, comedian, Emmanuella Samuel and Josh2Funny, Miss Tourism Niigeria, Mercy Jessica Odjugo and religious leaders from the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC).
Speaking at the launch, Ikeazor called on stakeholders and Nigerians to work together to promote and institutionalise the ‘One Health’ approach, which recognises the intrinsic connection between human and animal health as well as resilient natural systems.
To prevent the next pandemic, she said that government would focus efforts on large-scale and long-term commitment to wildlife-rich places such as national parks.
She said well-managed national parks provide security for people and wildlife and establishes an enabling environment that could attract tourism, combat poaching, protect biodiversity, deliver on international commitments and create decent local jobs.
Ikeazor said: “The government is committed to protecting, restoring and promoting sustainable use of our biodiversity. We will 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 overexploitation and trafficking has led to the development and implementation of strategies to combat corruption risk associated with transnational organised wildlife crime.”
The minister said Nigeria, as a Signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), commits to the implementation and adherence to the CITES laws and regulations as well as to other global agreements, conventions and treaties focused on conservation of biodiversity.
She said: “Nigeria has also played a vital role in the creation of the West Africa strategy on combating wildlife crime, in its position as Chair of the Steering Committee responsible for establishing this important regional strategy.
“We will not relent in our resolve to regularly review, develop and implement the appropriate policy, legal and institutional framework as necessary just as we are taking a bold step towards ensuring adequate implementation of the recently validated National Strategy on Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime in Nigeria, as supported by UNODC, which will be launched in March this year.”
The President, WildAid, Peter Knights, said: “Nigeria has potential to become a regional leader in wildlife protection, which can boost the economy through tourism and safeguard the public from zoonotic disease.”
He said: “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. 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. Illegal bushmeat consumption is widespread across Nigeria’s top cities. Nigeria has emerged as the top transit point in the world for illegal ivory and pangolin scale trafficking trafficked from Africa to Asia. From 2016 to 2019, over half of the pangolin scales seized globally came from Nigeria.”
The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said: “We have not been good custodians of our ecosystems. We plunder, poison, extract and deplete our biodiversity not realising that without the free gifts of nature that 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 pandemic and Ebola. If we continue this path without drastic reversal, we are inducing an existential threat scenario, meaning the earth may become hostile for humans or other life forms to exist.”
On his part, the Director of Forestry Department, Federal Ministry of Environment, Kolawole Adekola, said: “Aggressive, and continuous publicity campaign is imperative to raise awareness of the trends in wildlife exploitation and trafficking.”