The Nigerian government has reiterated its commitment to reducing the demand for illegal bushmeat and curbing illegal wildlife trade in the country.
To accomplish this, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the establishment of ten new national parks in the country.
The development was made public on Thursday, January 6, 2022, by the Minister of State for Environment, Barr. Sharon Ikeazor, Naija News reports.
Ikeazor while delivering her keynote speech at the official launch of the largest wildlife conservation campaign in Africa by WildAid, said a proactive measure needed to be taken to reverse the trend of overexploitation of these natural resources.
According to the Minister, poaching, possessing, taking, trading and consumption of these animals have put Nigeria in the spotlight of wildlife crime.
Naija News understands that the campaign tagged ‘Keep them wild, keep us safe’ is also aimed at raising awareness of wildlife conservation in the country.
The event had in attendance the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, WildAid President, Peter Knights OBE, the Director-General of National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, Prof. Aliyu Jauro and representatives from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, Nigerian Customs Services and other related agencies.
Speaking further at the event held at Lagos Oriental Hotel, Ikeazor said due to the threat faced by the 309 threatened wildlife species like the pangolins, lions, elephants, manatees and others, President Buhari has consented to the establishment of 10 national parks from the existing forest reserves in Nigeria.
The Minister commended the collaborative effort of WildAid in tackling illegal wildlife trade in Nigeria, stating that efforts such as theirs would help curb the menace.
Ikeazor berated how many Nigerians exploit and consume these bush meats.
She stressed that it poses environmental risks and is a threat to public health. Ikeazor also noted with dismay that Nigeria has been tagged a transit hub for illegal wildlife activities.
“We are all culprits of bushmeat consumption as it is a phenomenon in both rural and urban communities, posing environmental risks and extinction of threatened species.
“In-country and transborder trafficking is quite alarming, and Nigeria has been tagged a ‘transit hub’ for this illegality.
“The phenomenon also constitutes high security risk, public health risk with the spread of zoonotic diseases such as Lassa Fever, Ebola Virus, and recently COVID-19,” Ikeazor maintained.
She, however, restated the government’s commitment to protect, restore and promote the sustainable use of the Nigerian biodiversity through the necessary agencies and collaborations.
In his remark, the founder and president of WildAid, Peter Knights, noted that there are less than 50 lions, 100 gorillas, 500 elephants and 2,300 chimpanzees left in the wild in Nigeria with no surviving cheetahs, rhinoceros, or giraffes.
Knights, however, believes that Nigeria can “turn things around for wildlife and become a regional leader in wildlife protection, which can boost the economy through tourism and safeguard the Nigerian public from zoonotic diseases.”
He stated that WildAid aims to engage the youths and middle class in the campaign to save Nigeria’s wildlife.
Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, who also spoke at the event, asserted that biological threats such as the Ebola virus and COVID-19 are clear consequences of disruption of nature.
He stated that if we continued the path of destroying this balance without a major reversal, “we are inducing an existential threat scenario.”
As part of its campaign in Nigeria, WildAid is poised to help Nigeria enforce its wildlife laws by forming partnerships with the media and government agencies involved in enforcing both local and international wildlife regulations to create a unified approach to tackling bushmeat consumption and illegal wildlife trade.
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