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WildAid partners FG, Lagos, others on wildlife conservation campaign

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In its drive to increase awareness on wildlife conservation in Nigeria, WildAid, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), has partnered with the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Lagos State Government and Nollywood to launch a campaign towards achieving the goal.

The campaign, which drew many stakeholders in the environment and health sectors, had the Nigeria Minister of State for the Environment, Mrs Sharon Ikeazor; Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Professor Akin Abayomi; Nollywood actress, Stephanie Linus; Comedian Emmanuela and Music star Davido (WildAid ambassadors) in attendance.

Justifying the flag-off of the campaign, at a news conference in Lagos, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), WildAid, Mr Peter Knights, said it targeted support enforcement activities to tackle illegal wildlife trade and raise awareness of disappearing wildlife using the slogans “Keep them wild, keep us safe” and “Poaching steals from us all.”

According to him, the campaign aimed at a reduction in illegal bushmeat consumption.

With its dynamism and cultural influence, he said Knight said that Nigeria could turn things around for wildlife while becoming a regional leader in wildlife protection, which he said could boost the economy through tourism and safeguard the Nigerian public from zoonotic disease.

Stating the importance of the campaign, Knight said: ”Today, Nigeria has no surviving cheetahs, rhinos or giraffes, and fewer than 50 lions, 100 gorillas, 500 elephants and 2,300 chimpanzees left in the wild.”

He explained that despite ongoing conservation efforts, poaching for body parts and meat along with habitat loss from deforestation, infrastructure development, and agricultural expansion threatened wildlife in Nigeria.

“Illegal bushmeat consumption is widespread across Nigeria’s top cities,” the wildAid boss said.

Speaking, the Minister of State for Environment, Mrs Sharon Ikeazor, assured that the Federal Government is committed to protecting, restoring, and promoting sustainable use of the nation’s biodiversity.

She promised that her ministry would support the sustainable management of forests, combat desertification, land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss.

According to her, the ministry’s 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 organised wildlife crime.

The minister said: ”Consumption of bushmeat has been linked to zoonotic diseases, such as HIV-AIDS, Ebola, SARS, Lassa fever, monkeypox and COVID-19.”

Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said that Nigerians continue to deplete the nation’s biodiversity without a major and drastic reversal, they would be inducing an existential threat scenario, saying the earth might become too hostile for humans or other life forms to exist.

“We have not been very good custodians of our ecosystems. We plunder, poison, extract and deplete our biodiversity not realizing that without the free gifts of nature these biomes provide, we will cease to exist.

“Disrupting the delicate balances of nature with our heavy human footprint causes major repercussions such as severe weather changes and biological threats like COVID-19 and Ebola,” Abayomi said

Director of Forestry Department, Federal Ministry of Environment, Mr Kolawole Adekola, said that an aggressive, high-scale and continuous publicity campaign has become imperative to raise awareness of the precarious trends in wildlife exploitation and trafficking.

Adekola said that a participatory approach towards achieving sustainable management and utilisation of the forest ecosystem resources also needs to be promoted.

WildAid is currently working with the Lagos government to update its wildlife protection laws.

It is also partnering 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.

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