The Wild Africa Fund, a Non-Govermental Organisation (NGO), has stressed the need for partnerships to wage the war against illegal wildlife trade and trafficking in the country.
Mr Kelechukwu Iruoma, Nigeria Representative for Wild Africa Fund, stated this in a statement to mark the World Wildlife Day (WWD) on Friday in Lagos.
The WWD is an annual event dedicated to raise awareness on the importance of wildlife.
Iruoma urged the government and conservation organisations to partner to tackle forest and wildlife crime to protect the country’s biodiversity.
According to him, Nigeria is home to some of the world’s most iconic wildlife such as elephants, lions and gorillas.
Iruoma, however, said that illegal activities such as poaching, deforestation and illegal wildlife trade had put these animals in danger, thereby threatening their existence.
He added that Nigeria had also become the transit hub for the illegal trade in ivory and pangolin scales.
Iruoma said that the 2023 WWD with the theme, “Partnerships for Wildlife,’’ underscored the crucial role partnerships play in protecting and preserving wildlife for biodiversity conservation.
He said that protecting these species and their habitats were essential not only for their survival but for the health and well-being of the ecosystem and the livelihoods of the host communities that depend on them.
He said that the Wild Africa Fund would remain committed to protecting Nigeria’s wildlife stressing that this cannot be achieved independently.
“Everyone has a part to play,” Iruoma said.
Iruoma quoted Mr Peter Knights, Founder Wild Africa Fund, as saying that all hands must be on deck to fight illegal wildlife trade in Nigeria.
“By partnering with the government, international and local NGOs, media, and local communities, we can achieve greater impact and ensure a brighter future for wildlife in Africa and beyond.”
“Collaboration is the best hope that we have of ensuring that Nigeria’s natural resources are protected for future generations,
“Through our work with local communities, governments, and other conservation organisations, we are making strides toward a future where humans and wildlife can thrive together.
“We applaud the progress being made in Nigeria and urge everyone to join us in the fight to protect and preserve Nigeria’s natural heritage,” Knights said.
Iruoma said that the Wild Africa Fund was also collaborating with the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Africa Nature Investors Foundation (ANI) with support from the UK Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund.
He said the fund was also in collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) to support the Nigerian government to update its wildlife laws and combat illegal wildlife trade.
“There has been progress with this as the Endangered Species Conservation and Protection Bill passed its first reading in the Federal House of Representatives in February 2023.
“This is a demonstration that the organisations and government are commitment to wildlife conservation,” Iruoma said.
Iruoma quoted the EIA as saying that it was proud of its long-standing partnerships with government agencies, Civil Society Organisations, and public institutions such as the financial and banking sectors that have a vital role to play in tackling wildlife trafficking.
Justin Gosling, the EIA’s Senior Project Coordinator – Securing Criminal Justice, commended Nigeria for taking decisive steps to improve its law enforcement and criminal justice.
“Nigeria is taking decisive steps to improve its law enforcement and criminal justice response to wildlife crime which, if sustained, will have a lasting impact across the continent, ensuring a future for all species affected by wildlife and forest crime,” Gosling said.
Iruoma also quoted Tunde Morakinyo, ANI’s Executive Director, as saying that the ANI was working to protect Nigeria’s national parks and forest reserves.
Morakinyo, however, noted that protection in the field was not enough without addressing the wider legislative context of the country.
“This new legislation will be critical to enabling Nigeria to decisively tackle the illegal trade in wildlife and will demonstrate to the world that the country can be a leader on the African continent for an issue that affects all Nigerians and indeed all of us as human beings,” he said
Iruoma said the fund was also collaborating with the Amo Farm Sieberer Hatchery Ltd. to supply Noiler chickens to hunters and bush meat sellers in Lagos to end the sale of pangolins and other wildlife in the markets as an alternative to illegal bush meat.
He said the fund had fostered robust partnership with the media to improve the coverage of wildlife conservation issues, to change the attitude of people toward protecting and promoting wildlife.
He added that the media had played a significant role in conservation awareness and education. (NAN)