Tourism: Nigeria, African losing billions of dollars to illegal Wildlife exploitation

Nigeria joined the global community to mark the World Wildlife Day on Sunday with the theme, ‘Life Below Water: For People and Planet’.

The minister of Environment, Hassan Suleiman Zarma, at an event to mark the day in Abuja on Monday, called for more action from Nigerians and other stakeholders to preserve and protect oceans, seas and marines and the diverse species in them.

Zarma, who was represented by the acting permanent secretary, Bolatito Obisesan, said the richness of the ecosystems is important to the sustenance of human civilisation and development through the provision of food and nourishment, material for handicraft and construction of the air.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “On this World Wildlife Day, let us raise awareness about the extraordinary diversity of marine life and the crucial importance of marine species to sustainable development. That way, we can continue to provide these services for future generations.”

The World Wildlife Day, according to the United Nations, is set aside to celebrate the beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora and to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits that conservation provides to humans.

Also, the day is to remind governments of the urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime and human induced reduction of species, which have wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts.

While the need to raise awareness is vital, it is also important to note that the state of wildlife in Nigeria has not been impressive.

Like the rest of African countries, Nigeria is exploited and as a result, millions of biodiversity have been lost thus affecting the revenue that would have accrued from the sector.

The Head of Abuja office of Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Mohammed Boyi, told Daily Trust that the state of wildlife in Nigeria, especially when it is compared to pre-independence and immediately after independent remained pathetic.

Boyi said many species of both plants and animals are threatened and some no longer exist in the country.

“The rate at which we are exploiting wildlife in this country is not sustainable and the laws that were made to protect wildlife are obsolete and need to be reviewed.

“Apart from the unsustainable harvest of wildlife, another challenge is pollution where people litter/pollute the environment with plastic materials and this is causing havoc especially to aquatic life,” said Boyi.

The minister, Zarma, corroborated, saying despite the importance of the ecosystem, its services compound the perceived limitless nature of the oceans, seas and that marine living resources have been severely impacted by human activities including unregulated or poorly managed human activities, fishing and pollution.

A recent report by the African Union (AU) obtained by Daily Trust tagged, ‘Corruption and the Illicit Exploitation and Trade of Africa’s Natural Resources’, revealed that economically, corruption and illegal exploitation of wildlife deprive governments of revenue and taxes.

It said it also forced reallocation of limited funding away from conservation to addressing wildlife crime while in turn, corruption holds back effective law enforcement, at a significant cost to the public purse.

According to the AU, international illegal wildlife trade is the fourth largest illegal global trade (after drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking) and estimated to be worth up to US$23 billion per year.

“In particular, nature and wildlife are hugely important to Africa’s booming travel and tourism industry, which contributed US$177.6 billion or 8.1% of Africa’s GDP in 2017. Travel and tourism also directly or indirectly supports nearly 23 million jobs, or 6.5% of total employment,” the report said.

“This illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products threatens not only the survival of many endangered species but also the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals: wildlife crime strengthens criminal networks, poses risks to global health, weakens national economies and undermines nature-based tourism, food security, social stability and community livelihoods,” the AU report said.

To retrace our steps to the right direction, Mohammed Boyi said: “We can achieve wildlife conservation in Nigeria especially if government and other stakeholders can unanimously agree to conduct serious massive sensitization of the entire Nigerian populace on the values and significance of wildlife.

“Local people should be encouraged to adopt the use of hunting quarter, hunting season and avoiding undertaking the activity in protected areas, because these are mechanisms or strategies that can be used to conserve wildlife so that local people can harvest to support their livelihood.”

He also said government should come up with laws and policies that will regulate the use of plastic materials especially in environments that are endowed with rich wildlife and biodiversity like the marine ecosystem.

Meanwhile, Environment minister Zarma has maintained that Nigeria is committed to unlocking the potentials of life below water for sustainable economic growth and a number of its programmes have been so designed and being implemented.

“The over-arching objective of these programmes is to build long-term resilience and generates business and economic opportunities while providing societal benefits as well as ensuring environmental sustainability,” he said.

The Conservator General of the National Park Service, Ibrahim Goni, said life is meaningless without wildlife.

“He said: “The park service has submitted a proposal for the establishment of 10 additional national parks including a marine park in Bayelsa State to ensure that ocean and marine species are adequately preserved and protected.”

AU however advised that corruption prevention is critical where wildlife is concerned and also the need to have strong institutions empowered to monitor and protect those who defend biodiversity.

By Chidimma C. Okeke

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