The disclosure that Nigeria has lost about 90 per cent of its original forest cover ought to be a matter of serious concern to the generality of Nigerians and the nation’s conservationists in particular.
Speaking at the celebration of this year’s World Wildlife Day with the theme “Life Below Water: For People and Planet”, the Director of Cross River Landscape Programme of Wildlife Conservation Society of Nigeria (WCSN), Dr. Ina-Oyon Imong, further said that over 50 per cent of the remaining forest cover could be found in Cross River state.
He noted that it was only in small areas across the country that forests were still intact, and that within those areas, the forests were fragmented and effectively isolating wildlife population.
Dr. Imong also expressed the apprehension that the situation might lead to the extinction of some species of wild animals.
He said, “Globally, wildlife is under threat due to human activities ranging from hunting to habitat destruction such as farming, bush burning, logging, road construction, among others.
“In Nigeria, the problem is that there is overexploitation of the wildlife; households want to generate income and food and so, they endanger our habitat.
“There is a greater demand for land now due to overpopulation and not everyone appreciates the value of our animal species beyond being bush meat.”
He disclosed that the WCSN was working with government at all levels and communities to help conserve the nation’s important sites through training and supporting locals to have an alternative source of livelihood and providing equipment for rangers saddled with the enforcement of laws protecting the wildlife.
Beyond the threat to survival of land animals, Dr. Imong raised the alarm over the danger faced by marine creatures which are daily imperiled by chemical substances from factories that are funneled into the nation’s rivers as well as the operation of motorized boats causing noise pollution on water bodies.
These are aside from the evacuation of plastic wastes into the oceans which now feed marine creatures like fishes which in turn could constitute danger to human health through the consumption of such animals.
Dr. Imong’s alarm was sounded about the same time that the government of Kebbi state issued a strong warning to hunters in the state against killing of wild animals in designated locations across the state.
The state Governor, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, gave the warning while addressing hunters from the 21 local government areas of the state that converged on the Birnin Kebbi Township Stadium.
He told the hunters that his administration would support them in their efforts to rid the state of criminal elements operating under the cover of Shara Daji Forest but which should not be a licence for turning on wild animals in the area.
That the nation is facing deforestation onslaughts from all angles is not new. However, no serious measures are being put in place to rein in the menace.
Given the desertification march from the northern belt of the country, the challenge posed by those that attack what remains of the nation’s forest cover should be confronted by government at all levels through the instrumentality of extant laws that seek to protect our environment.
More forest guards ought to be recruited to police our forests in the overall interest of the Nigerian populace and the generations unborn.
Activities of loggers, hewers of woods for domestic and commercial purposes as well as bush meat hunters that set forests ablaze to smoke out wild animals thus aggravating the danger posed by climate change need to be curtailed as a matter of urgency.
The systematic onslaughts on wild animals leading to their depletion is also a huge minus for our tourism industry.
It is no longer secret that hunters walk into forests across the country to hunt down animals such as gorillas, elephants, lions and other exotic ones with which they take photographs as evidence of their hunting prowess.
Furthermore, it will not be out of place for the federal and state government to criminalise the sale of bush meat as a way of discouraging hunters from indiscriminate killing of wild animals in designated areas.
A temporary reprieve only came for the wild animals in the wake of the Ebola epidemic that hit the country in 2014 which virtually shut down all bush meat selling points across the country.
All relevant agencies should team up with the Federal and State Ministries of Environment to arrest the unfavourable trend of unfeathering the nation of its forest cover and laying it prostrate and vulnerable to unfavourable climate conditions.
In a similar vein, the nation’s marine domain should be protected against the habitual dumping of plastic wastes in line with the United Nations’ resolution to fight against those using the oceans as a dumping ground for such menace.
Also, the campaign for the use of paper packs and cartons for packaging in preference to plastics which are being advocated across the globe should also be intensified in this country with a definite deadline set for implementation.