WildAid launches campaign against multi-billion dollar wildlife trading
In a bid to ensure wildlife conservation across the continent, WildAid, a conservation group, has launched a programme to halt illegal wildlife trade, a multi-billion dollar global industry largely driven by consumer demand.
Launched on Thursday in Lagos, using the slogans “keep them wild, keep us safe” and “poaching steals from us all,” the campaign aims to reduce demand for illegal bushmeat in major urban centers, support enforcement activities to tackle the illegal wildlife trade and raise awareness of disappearing wildlife.
The significance of the campaign is underscored by the extinction of certain wild animals and the rapid reduction of others.
For instance, Nigeria currently has no surviving cheetahs, rhinos, or giraffes. There are just about 50 lions, 100 gorillas, 500 elephants, and 2,300 chimpanzees left in the country’s wild.
Despite ongoing stakeholder’s conservation efforts, poaching for body parts and meat along with habitat loss from deforestation, infrastructure development, and agricultural expansion threaten wildlife in Nigeria.
More so, illegal bushmeat consumption is widespread across Nigeria’s top cities. About 71 percent of Nigerians admitted to having consumed bushmeat at some point in their lives, according to a survey by GlobeScan, commissioned by WildAid.
Nigeria has also been documented as the top transit point in the world for illegal ivory and pangolin scale trafficking trafficked from Africa to Asia. Between 2016 – 2019, over half of the pangolin scales seized globally came from Nigeria.
In spite of scientific evidence linking zoonotic diseases, such as HIV-AIDS, Ebola, SARS, Lassa fever, monkey-pox, and COVID-19 to bushmeat consumption, the practice seems to be burgeoning.
Statistics show that Nigeria has an endemic flora of 91 species belonging to 44 families. According to the IUCN Red list of 2013, Nigeria has a total of 309 threatened species including mammals (such as the pangolins, lions, elephants, manatees), Birds (like the grey parrots and the black-crowned crane, which is our National Bird).
Sharon Ikeazor, the minister of State for Environment, while arguing for the protection of the environment said biodiversity plays a vital role in our economy, ecology, and social lives.
“We use it as food,” she said, “fibre, domestic and commercial products, medicine, and for aesthetics and culture, agriculture, knowledge, and industrial processes.”
Speaking at the launch of the campaign, she said the federal government of Nigeria was committed to protecting, restoring, and promoting sustainable use of the country’s biodiversity.
The government will support the sustainable management of forests, combat desertification, land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss, she said, noting that collaboration with relevant agencies and stakeholders to stem the tide of wildlife overexploitation and trafficking has led to the development and implementation of strategies to combat corruption-risk associated with transnational organized wildlife crime.
On his part, Akin Abayomi, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, said humans have not been very good custodians of the ecosystems, as they plunder, poison, extract and deplete our biodiversity not realising that “without the free gifts of nature that these biomes provide, we will cease to exist.”
He further warned that disrupting the delicate balances of nature with our heavy human footprint causes major repercussions such as severe weather changes and biological threats like COVID and Ebola.
“If we continue this path without a major and drastic reversal, we are inducing an existential threat scenario, meaning the earth may become too hostile for humans or other life forms to exist,” the health expert said.
According to him, increasing emerging infectious diseases and biosecurity threats; economic losses; loss of species and biodiversity; and medicinal loss are some of the consequences of interfering with the balance of nature.
Read also: Conservationists urge FG to step up efforts to tackle wildlife trafficking
Also contributing to the discussion in a statement to journalists, Kolawole Adekola, director of Forestry Department, Federal Ministry of Environment, pointed out that an aggressive, high-scale, and continuous publicity campaign is imperative to raise awareness of the precarious trends in wildlife exploitation and trafficking.
His views represent the essence of the campaign. The campaign includes TV public service announcements (PSAs), billboards, social media campaigns, radio and TV series with ambassadors from music, Nollywood, sports, religion, and entertainment.
Developed in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and other government agencies, the campaign stars Afrobeats artistes like Davido and Mayorkun, Everton FC and Nigeria footballer Alex Iwobi, Nollywood star Stephanie Linus, comedians Emanuella and Josh2Funny, Mercy Jessica Odjugo (Miss Tourism Nigeria), and religious leaders from the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) International stars, including Lupita N’yongo, Danai Gurira, Djimon Hounsou, Jackie Chan, and Kung Fu Panda will also be featured in the campaign.
This will be made possible by WildAid’s robust media partnerships with over two-dozen broadcast, print, and online organizations to amplify the campaign messages.
BusinessDay learnt that WildAid is currently working with the Lagos state government to update its wildlife protection laws along with 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.
Peter Knights, WildAid president, while in Lagos for the launch, expressed his belief that things can change for wildlife in Nigeria.
“With its dynamism and cultural influence, Nigeria can turn things around for wildlife and become a regional leader in wildlife protection, which can boost the economy through tourism and safeguard the Nigerian public from zoonotic disease,” Knights said.