The Key To Wildlife Conservation by Flora Kanu
In Africa, poaching is a serious threat to the continent’s indigenous wildlife. A layman in Africa considers poaching and illegal trade in endangered species a “Kenyan and South African problem” where organized safaris and tours of wild life conservation are huge tourism exports. Poaching is a global problem and since Nigeria is part of the global community, it is our problem too. An early realization of the importance of protecting our indigenous wildlife is vital for the preservation of not only our continent’s famed wildlife tourism sector but also our already fragile Eco-system.
In an incident which raised serious questions about the enforcement of conservation laws in Nigeria, some people were arrested in Ogun State for allegedly killing an elephant within a game reserve. The killer of the elephant and his accomplice were believed to be agents of some prominent individuals in the society who trade in elephant tusks which cost several millions of Naira in the black market.
Eventually, the culprits got away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Nigeria has a number of animal and plant species that are endangered or vulnerable and were listed as ‘vulnerable’ to extinction by The World Conservation Union (IUCN) in the 2004 IUCN “Red List of Threatened Animals”. Some of these animals include the African wild dogs, cheetah, giraffe, antelopes, the Cross River gorilla, the drill monkey and a number of smaller guenons that are found only in Nigeria and Cameroon forests. The need to protect these animals from extinction has prompted the establishment of wildlife parks and reserves where animals roam free within a protected area. Yankari and Lame-Burra game reserves in Bauchi State, Okomu, Edo State, Gashaka-Gumti National Park in Adamawa and Taraba States, Cross River National Park and Omo Forest Reserve, Ogun State are some of the most popular with more of such parks in the pipeline.
Nigeria’s game reserves and wildlife conservation parks attract many nature lovers from all over the world and have opened Nigeria’s eyes to the opportunities of Eco-friendly tourism. People all over the world are more aware of the acute depletion of some plants and animals thus welcome the idea of free range parks and reserves rather than locking the animals away in the zoo. That way, the animals can flourish in their natural habitat without unnecessary human contact. The parks are manned by park rangers who are responsible for securing the area under protection while being on the lookout for illegal activities. Unfortunately, the poaching business has become more and more sophisticated making the work of the rangers increasingly difficult. The establishment of the wildlife reserves took a lot of hard work and brought a new face to Nigerian tourism, one that can greatly improve the sector if managed properly but more needs to be done to eradicate the menace of poaching and the trade of endangered animals in the black market. Nigeria’s natural flora and fauna are one of the many gems that adorn her. These gems should be admired and revered, not stolen for personal gain. Eco-tourism is the key to achieving this both for tourists with good intentions and the future inhabitants of this land.