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For Love of Wildlife, influential voices converged on January 6 in Lagos to press Nigerians to end illegal bushmeat consumption and the wildlife trade.
Some of the celebrities who were in Lagos for the launch of the campaign against wildlife destruction and deforestation were Nollywood star Stephanie Linus, David Adedeji Adeleke, known as Davido, actress, Emanuella Samuel and Miss Tourism Nigeria , Mercy Jessica Odjugo. Environment Minister Sharon Ikeazor and Lagos State Health Commissioner Professor Akin Abayomi were also present at the event to explain to Nigerians why they need to preserve the ecosystem at benefit the human race.
This was a public conservation awareness campaign in Nigeria sponsored by a non-profit organization, WildAid, with a mission to reduce the demand for illegal bushmeat in major urban and rural centers. According to the NGO, the rate of disappearance of wildlife had become worrying.
With the slogans ‘Keep them wild, protect us’ and ‘Poaching is robbing us all’, WildAid is working with the Federal Department of the Environment and other government agencies, media and celebrities to reverse the trend. extinction of wildlife.
WildAid President Mr. Peter Knights said that with its dynamism and cultural influence, Nigeria could be a game-changer for wildlife and become a regional leader in wildlife protection which could boost the economy through tourism and protect the Nigerian public from zoonotic diseases. .
He praised the Nigerian government for its commitment so far to revive the country’s wildlife which has been significantly depleted. He explained the need to sustain the campaign, stressing that the benefits were immeasurable.
“We need to create public and political will for wildlife conservation. Today Nigeria has no surviving cheetahs, rhinos or giraffes and less than 50 lions, 100 gorillas, 500 elephants and 2,300 chimpanzees are still at large. Despite ongoing conservation efforts, poaching for body parts and meat, as well as habitat loss from deforestation, infrastructure development and agricultural expansion threaten wildlife in Nigeria.
“Illegal consumption of bushmeat is widespread in major cities in Nigeria. Commissioned by WildAid, a GlobeScan survey found that 71% of respondents said they had consumed bushmeat at some point in their life.
“Nigeria has become the world’s first transit point for the illegal trafficking of ivory and pangolin scales from Africa to Asia. Lagos is a major route for this traffic. Between 2016 and 2019, more than half of the pangolin scales seized worldwide came from Nigeria.
“With the right protection, the right laws, enforcement and public awareness, we can turn the tide and rebuild our wildlife conservation,” he said.
Ikeazor said if Nigerians continued to poach their wildlife and cultivate the forest, the rainfall and oxygen that humans breathe would be severely affected. She urged everyone to do the right thing, stressing that it is time for the country to protect its natural heritage.
The Minister said that more efforts are needed to restore, conserve and sustainably manage Nigeria’s valuable wildlife diversity resources, distributed in swamps, mountains, lowland forests and coastal vegetation, savannah , the savannah of Guinea with many wild species.
The minister said statistics showed Nigeria was losing so much due to illegal human activities.
“We have our national plant and our national bird, but all of them are on the verge of extinction and we must reverse it. As part of the ongoing efforts, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved 10 more national parks. The Federal Government of Nigeria is committed to protecting, restoring and promoting the sustainable use of our biodiversity.
“Our survival and general well-being depend on the friendliness and sustainability of our world and the management of its biodiversity.
“The alarming rate of overexploitation of these natural resources calls for urgent, increased and proactive actions to reverse the trend. We must join forces with this laudable initiative by WildAid so that much is done to save and protect these endangered animals.
“We will support the sustainable management of forests, fight against desertification, land degradation and stop the loss of biodiversity. Our collaboration with relevant agencies and stakeholders to stem the tide of overexploitation and trafficking in wildlife has led to the development and implementation of strategies to address the risk of corruption associated with transnational organized crime. in matters of wildlife.
“We also need to work to actively promote and institutionalize the ‘one health’ approach, which recognizes the intrinsic link between human health and the ecosystem. If we are to prevent the next pandemic, we must commit to the long-term commitment to create a healthy and safer environment for all.
“The majority of us are guilty of eating bushmeat. This phenomenon poses a health risk with possible spread of Lassa fever, Ebola virus, monkey pox, SARS and recently COVID-19, which comes from animals, ”she said. .
For his part, Professor Abayomi explained that there is no distinction between human health and the health of the environment. He agreed with other speakers that humans are part of the ecosystem. He said saving the ecosystem is saving people.
“It is important that we stand in solidarity to denounce this exploitation and abuse of these animals, the degradation of the environment and natural resources. Lack of wildlife conservation is a serious threat to biosecurity that leads to an increased likelihood of natural disaster, global warming, and significant change in our food production.
“Wild animals belong to their ecosystem where they play a protective role for humans. When we destroy the forest, we destroy the harmony of nature, and then there will be chances that these animals come into contact with human beings, thus spreading the pathogens that belong to the forest to the inhabitants of the cities. We are going through extensive deforestation in Nigeria through bushfires and the rest.
“The forest converts carbon into oxygen for humans. The forest cools the environment and creates rain by capturing moisture and allowing clouds to form which generate rain. Desertification leads to the loss of the livelihoods of millions of people.
“We have not been very good stewards of our ecosystems. We plunder, poison, extract and deplete our biodiversity without realizing that without the free gifts of nature that these biomes provide, we will cease to exist. When you degrade biodiversity, there will be a movement of these infectious diseases from the animal kingdom to the human population.
“Disrupting the delicate balances of nature with our heavy human footprint has major repercussions such as severe climate change and biological threats. If we pursue this path without a major and drastic reversal, we induce an existential threat scenario, which means that the Earth could become too hostile for humans or other forms of life to exist, ”warned the commissioner.
According to him, mother nature does not need man to exist, but man needs mother nature to survive, adding that nature has provided enough to meet people’s needs but not their greed.
Davido said that every stakeholder must continue to work for the betterment of the environment and people in Nigeria, Africa and the world.
He said there should be a natural habitat where animals should be kept safe and where people can go for fun.
Additionally, Linus, who is one of the campaign ambassadors, said: “I have become part of this awareness because wildlife conservation in Nigeria needs to be given adequate attention. I want my children and yours to grow up to see an elephant and a lion. We can only do this if we stop killing these species and destroying our forest. Our wildlife is a vital part of our natural heritage and it is sad that we have lost much of it, but there is hope if we all join in the countryside.
Emmanuella said she was excited when she saw one of the wild animals in Lagos. She begged Nigerians to contribute their own quota for animal safety.
The Director of the Forestry Department of the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Kolawole Adekola, said: “An aggressive, large-scale and continuous advertising campaign is imperative to raise awareness of the precarious trends in the exploitation and trafficking of wildlife. A participatory approach to achieve sustainable management and use of forest ecosystem resources should also be encouraged. The federal government, through the Department of the Environment, has made a commitment and is working with WildAid to make this happen.
As learned, WildAid is working with the Lagos State Government to update its wildlife protection laws with the 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.
Knights added, “While most wildlife conservation groups focus on protecting animals from poaching, WildAid primarily works to reduce the global consumption of wildlife products such as elephant ivory. , rhino horn and shark fin soup. With an unrivaled portfolio of Celebrity Ambassadors and a global network of media partners that WildAid relies on, we deliver the simple message, “When buying stops, so can murder.”
“Since 2015, we have been working in Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Gabon and Cameroon to highlight the urgency to protect wildlife. Using famous ambassadors, singers and athletes to influential ministers and religious councils, we aim to touch the minds of the public at all levels of society with the slogan “poaching steals us all”.