Conservationists in the country have urged the federal government to step up its efforts in tackling illegal wildlife trafficking in the country.
The conservationists who spoke during a public lecture organized by the Pangolin Conservation Guild of Nigeria in partnership with the United States Consulate and the OOPL Wildlife Park said that the country became the hub for the illegal trade owing to its lack of stiffer penalties for traffickers.
“Trafficking of wildlife has serious implications including pollution, deforestation, and destruction of natural habitats, climate change, species population reduction, and extinction,” Olajumoke Morenikeji, chair, Pangolin Conservation Guild of Nigeria (PCGN) said.
“There is need for increased law enforcement, detection, and monitoring at all exit points to restrict the flow of illegal ivory and pangolins from and through Nigeria, corruption should be tackled,” she said.
She noted that endangered animals and plants are often the targets of wildlife crime and two of such animals are pangolins and elephants.
According to her, weak law enforcement has made the country an emerging transit route for many shipments of wildlife species and products.
She said that illegal wildlife trafficking can cause the spread of viruses, and bacteria, sighting how pangolins have been linked to the novel coronavirus.
PCGN chair added that the illegal wildlife trade threatens the management of natural resources and rural livelihoods.
Mary-Ann Ajayi, lecturer, College of Law, BOWEN University in a presentation during the public lecture noted that wildlife protection laws are not effective in the country, noting as a result Nigeria has become a hub for illegal trade.
“Lax law enforcement agencies, insecure borders and easy access to large ports put the country at the centre of the illicit trade,” she said.
“Nigeria’s hydra-headed problems have contributed to the explosion of pangolin trafficking.”
On tackling the illegal trade, she noted that the country cannot afford to allow its wildlife trafficking laws to be poorly enforced and prosecuted.
She urged the government to illegal wildlife trafficking as a trans-national crime rather than a conservation issue, while calling for collaborative efforts to address the issue.
“Nigerian officials should be trained and information exchanged with their counterparts in destination countries such as China and Vietnam to effectively dismantle the criminal networks behind it and bring the high-level traffickers to justice.”
Speaking also, Jennifer Foltz, deputy public affairs officer, U.S. Consulate Lagos said that wildlife trafficking remains a serious transnational crime that threatens security, economic prosperity, the rule of law, long-standing conservation efforts and human health.
She said that illicit wildlife trade is decimating many species worldwide and threatens species such as rhinoceroses, elephants, and pangolin with extinction.
She noted that consumer demand and transnational organized criminal networks are driving the illicit trade of wildlife and its products, adding that illegal trade has evolved into one of the world’s largest black markets and is valued at tens of billions of dollars.
To address wildlife trafficking, she said the United States works in priority countries that are sources of wildlife and wildlife products, transit points, or destinations for sellers and buyers.
To support the enforcement of wildlife trade laws, she stated that the United States supports countries building the capacities of rangers and scouts, forensic scientists, legislators, prosecutors, and judges to detect, arrest, investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate wildlife traffickers along this illegal supply chain.
“Through our work, partner countries can better fight the criminal networks that undermine development efforts, thereby better conserving their wildlife for future generations,” she said.