Wild Africa Fund says it is seeking the partnership of the government, its agencies and the organised private sector in the fight against illegal wildlife trade in Nigeria and Africa at large.
Mr Peter Knights, Founder/President, Wild Africa Fund, made the appeal at a news conference on the challenges of wildlife conservation in Nigeria.
Knights said that the collaboration became imperative because of the use of Nigerian ports by illegal wildlife traffickers to fast track their nefarious activities.
He, however, commended the Nigerian Customs Service for helping to track and seize container loads of wildlife ornaments at the port.
According to him, there has been serious collaboration with the customs service to make use of sniffer dogs to aid the tracking of ivory, pangolin scales and a host of others hidden inside containers.
Knights said that WildAid, an international wildlife conservation organisation has handed its Nigeria programme to Wild Africa Fund to run it with exclusive focus on conservation efforts in Africa.
He said that the fund would employ mass communications, such as the “Music for Wildlife” and “Poaching steals from us all” campaigns.
The president said that the goal of the communication was attitudinal change to poaching, habitat loss and human wildlife conflict.
“It will also promote wildlife tourism and carbon offset as a new source of conservation and sustainable development funding.
“It will promote and directly support local wildlife programmes from offices in Cape Town, Lagos and Kigali and will run the programmes previously under WildAid in South Africa, Nigeria and Zimbabwe,” Knights said.
The founder said that Wild Africa Fund would work with the relevant ministries and agencies of government to strengthen extant laws against poaching, illegal wildlife trade and consumption of bush meat.
He noted that the extant laws prohibiting bushmeat consumption and illegal wildlife trade has been somewhat problematic adding that it was quite difficult to prosecute offenders.
He said that sooner than later, a new legislation would be put in place to strengthen existing extant laws.
“I think customs have done an amazing job with their seizures. You have seen all those seizures, This is really bad, but it means customs are doing their job.
“So, all credit goes to customs for doing that.
“They have not been able to prosecute in many cases. And that is why a new law is needed. So, I think with the new law, they can do even better.”
He expressed optimism that the emergence of a new law, would empower the regulatory authorities to prosecute offenders, thus helping to reduce the illegal bush meat trade in the country.
He expressed the hope that the impact of a new legislation would stop Nigeria from being the center for smuggling.
The founder said that government agencies had the capacity in them to deliver on their mandate, but they right laws were needed.
“I have talked earlier about trying to do a programme to get sniffer dogs for the customs.
“The sniffer dogs have been very effective. They can detect ivory and pangolin scales even inside containers without opening the container.
“This will make it a lot more risky to send things through Nigeria, and we think that this will have a big impact.
“So, there’s a lot going on with those agencies in terms of training, in terms of better laws, in terms of equipment like sniffer dogs, which is going to make them hopefully the best in the region on these issues”.
According to Knights, there are huge challenges facing wildlife in Nigeria because many of them have become endangered.
“With less than 50 lions left and less than 500 elephants left, the big challenge is how can we move that back up again to sustainable populations?,” Knights said.
He said that his dream for Nigeria was to have national parks where people could go and see lion and elephants, etc., that could boost the tourism industry in the country.
Knights said that a lot of work had gone into rebuilding the tourism potential of Rwanda.
“They have rebuilt their national park. They have put back rhinos and giraffe into the park, creating a good tourism industry for the country
“So, that will take time, money and resources, but at the end of it, it can create a lot of jobs through tourism like hotel jobs, taxi driver’s jobs and restaurant jobs.” Knights said.
He said that there was a huge boom for tourism in Nigeria, because there’s amazing music in Nigeria, there is amazing art and there is amazing dance.
““But right now there’s no wildlife element.
“And for many tourists coming to Africa, they like to see a wildlife element. So, if Nigeria can rebuild that piece, I think it can really help the tourism industry take off,” Knights said.
By Fabian Ekeruche