Worried by the depletion of Nigeria’s wildlife, a conservation organisation, WildAid has called for more education of consumers on the dangers involved in consuming wildlife.
The group, made the call during a courtesy visit to Rutam House, the headquarters of The Guardian in Lagos, as part of its advocacy move. It also said there was need for law enforcement on illegal trade of wildlife and offering alternatives to consumers.
It lamented that due to consumption and trafficking, wildlife in Nigeria faces a number of threats, including poaching for body parts and meat, to habitat loss from deforestation, infrastructure development and agricultural expansion.
In recent years, Nigeria has emerged as the number one transit point in the world for illegal ivory and pangolin scale trafficking as well as a major market for illegal bushmeat.
In January 2019, Hong Kong customs seized over $8 million worth of elephant tusks and pangolin scales from a shipping container coming from Nigeria.
At the same time, Nigeria’s wildlife has massively declined and species like lions, elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, drill monkeys, and crocodiles have been driven to the verge of extinction.
Conservationists estimate that Nigeria has fewer than 500 elephants, 100 Cross River gorillas and about 50 lions remaining. The Pangolins are either endangered or on the brink of extinction while other declining species, including crocodiles and antelope species like grass cutters, duikers, are widely found in bush meat markets across the country.
The President/Founder of WildAid, Mr. Peter Knight, said the group is starting a large-scale campaign to reduce urban consumption of bushmeat in Nigeria, using social behavioural change communications model that will persuade consumers not to buy bushmeat of protected species.
The group specialises in mass media communication campaigns to reduce demand for illegal wildlife products in Africa, Asia and to promote anti-poaching, domestic, wildlife tourism, and local wildlife conservation projects.
“We will be producing mini-documentaries, public service announcements, briefings, reports, and other communication materials targeting millions of urban residents via radio, newspapers, TV, social media, billboards and posters,” he said.
Knight emphasised the urgency to develop alternatives to bush meat consumptions for buyers and consumers such as raising of western and village chickens that are disease resistant, produce more eggs and meats as well as raising of cat fish.
Findings, he said, revealed that most Nigerians eat bush meat because of the flavour, its freedom from chemicals and due to the fact that it reminds them of the village life.
He said: “The problem with urban bushmeat markets, as research has shown, is that they do not only cater to local consumers but have moved into a major sources for illegal wildlife trafficking to Europe, Asia.
He explained that it is the easy way of moving people towards a more sustainable form of meat, which has no disease as compared to wildlife.
According to him, a great challenge in the campaign at reducing the threat to wildlife consumption was reaching out to many people. However, he said in Nigeria, there has been possible reaction from ambassadors and the media with desire to be involved in doing the right thing.
Knight said: “Security for some of the national park is a big problem. The rangers can’t do their job because of insecurity and it is a long-term challenge to the tourism environment. In some cases corruption plague wildlife conservation. We are getting the religious council involved by working with the interfaith council to get the leaders interested in supporting positive environment.”