By Odunewu Segun
Illegal killing, smuggling and other forms of illicit trade in wildlife do not only hurt the economy and the ecosystem, they also fuel organised crime as well as feed corruption and insecurity, undermining the sustainable development of the country.
The Director, Technical Programmes, Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Dr. Joseph Onoja, expressed this concern during an event aimed at educating students from various schools in Nigeria about environmental and conservation education, while marking the 2016 World Environment Day at the Lekki Conservation Centre (LCC), Lagos, on Thursday.
According to him, the illegal trade in wildlife has caused the decline of many species in Nigeria and the world. He said animals such as Pangolins, Elephants, Sea Turtles and Vultures are usually poached and their body parts are sold for sundry uses and traditional medicine, which he said has pushed such animal species at the risk of extinction without taking into account their health and economic benefits to the society.
Dr. Onoja said it would take dedicated and sustained effort by everyone in the society to turn the tides, saying “people need to understand the damage this illicit business is doing to our environment, livelihoods, communities and security,” and that awareness creation needs to be intensified so as to push “governments and international bodies to introduce and enforce tougher laws and combat those still willing to break them.”
The theme for this year’s event is “Zero Tolerance for the Illegal Wildlife Trade,” with the slogan, “Go Wild for Life” and June 5, this year was set aside for the commemoration of the event.
Other activities marking the event included quiz competition on Conservation and Environmental issues; ‘Pass it On’ – an activity testing the students’ depth in environmental issue and presentation of prizes to the best performing students and schools in the competition.
The Lagos State Junior Model College emerged the overall winner in the categories of Fauna and Flora and ‘Pass it On’ competition for pupils ages 5 to 7 and eight to 11, and 18 other schools across the state also participated at the event.