Potential ‘gold mine’ waste in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and others fetches dollars

While Kenya, Uganda, Botswana and Tanzania rake in billions of dollars from wildlife tourism, Nigeria, on the other hand, is grappling with a gradual extinction of wildlife, due to the nonchalant attitude of the government. and citizens. AMARACHI OKEH writes that it’s been going on for a while, offers plausible solutions, and discusses other wildlife tourism issues

As experts have described, some wild animals are now “functionally extinct” in Nigerian forests, with the country experiencing a decline in animal numbers. This rapid decline has left conservation experts worried about the impacts of the impending extinction of some endangered species on the Nigerian economy. They share the view that the extinction of endangered species could deprive the country of both ecological and economic benefits.

According to WildAid, a nonprofit and wildlife conservation advocacy organization, Nigeria no longer has cheetahs, rhinos and giraffes. However, there are 50 lions, 100 gorillas, 500 elephants and 2,300 chimpanzees in the wild that are critically endangered. The nonchalant attitude of the government to preserve them could boost the country’s economy.

Experts, Mark Ofua and Kelechukwu Iruoma spoke with The punch in commemoration of National Endangered Species Day.

Speaking to PUNCH, Ofua, a veterinarian and conservationist, said the biggest challenge to conserving endangered wildlife in Nigeria is ignorance. “The level of ignorance of policy makers towards ordinary citizens is very alarming,” he said.

“We don’t even know why we should keep them. We do not know the benefits that these animals provide us. We don’t know why we should peacefully coexist with them and because we don’t know, we don’t care about their fate whether they disappear or not.

“Some people don’t realize our livelihood is tied to these animals and we need them to thrive so we can thrive properly.”

Ofua told our reporter that there is so much untapped potential in wildlife conservation in Nigeria instead: “People flock to Kenya, Uganda and South Africa every year and pay millions to see these animals. These countries reap millions of dollars through tourism activities,” Ofua said.

“I know that in Uganda, to spend an hour with the gorillas in the wild, you pay around $1,500. Imagine that. So you can imagine how long these gorillas rake for countries but our gorillas here we allow hunters to kill them or sell them as bushmeat.

“And in Kenya? he asked, “to spend time with the orphan elephant, you would pay. We have elephants in Nigeria but we kill them. Imagine if I kill an adult elephant here in Nigeria and sell the tusk, and maybe the flesh will feed about five or ten families and that’s it, but if I keep this elephant alive and it becomes a tourist attraction, it will bring the community hundreds of thousands of naira every month for the next 50 years.

Nigeria has rare wildlife such as forest elephant and Cross River gorilla, which are not found in other countries, but their presence does not matter as the country does not like it .

While Nigeria is still struggling with unemployment which currently stands at 33.3% according to the National Bureau of Statistics, countries like Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Uganda and Botswana, through wildlife conservation, create jobs and increase their country’s gross domestic product.

Standard Media, a Kenyan news outlet, reported that wildlife-based tourism contributes almost 14% to Kenya’s GDP. In 2019, the country reportedly earned $1.61 billion, Reuters said.

In South Africa, its tourism-driven wildlife economy contributed an estimated $8 billion in 2018, accounting for 2.8% of their economy’s GDP, Investec reported.

The World Bank also stated that in “Namibia, 19% of all jobs are directly or indirectly related to tourism. In Tanzania, tourism is the biggest source of foreign exchange, competing with gold.

While the tourism industry can create opportunities to preserve endangered wildlife, Ofua noted that human activities like housing estates and agriculture reduce the habitat of native organisms, putting them at risk of extinction.

He argued that no matter how much you love a species or an animal, once the home range is destroyed that animal will disappear, but that doesn’t have to be the case, he said. The zoo can be a breeding ground instead of simply being a place of detention for them.

A World Atlas report also said that human activities like agriculture, hunting and logging are the main threats to endangered mammals in Nigeria.

Traditional beliefs and superstitions are also another reason why these animals are disappearing. “About 10 years ago the way you would know you were approaching from the southeast was seeing vultures along the road because vultures would come to the side of the road to feast on road kills, but right now you can hardly see vultures.

“If only you knew the role vultures play in supporting our health, as they are nature’s trash can. They eat dead animals and ensure that these domestic animals do not have access to these dead wild animals and do not bring diseases.

“Vultures help protect our health but we have killed them all both for food and for rituals. So we are putting ourselves at risk if we don’t take care of these endangered species.

Much like WildAid’s campaign slogan that read, “Keep them wild, protect us,” experts noted that preserving these species is important to maintaining ecosystem balance.

There is a need to launch a national campaign to raise awareness about the threat facing endangered species in Nigeria, said Kelechukwu Iruoma, representative of WildAid Nigeria.

Iruoma said WildAid is committed to ensuring that endangered species in Nigeria are preserved and their populations increase in the near future.

With the support of relevant government authorities, Iruoma says WildAid hopes to restore the country’s declining wildlife tourism and make Nigeria a conservation leader in Africa.

Is the conservation of these animals possible? Ofua said it can be done but the right attitude from the government is needed. He postulated that once the government shows it is ready to preserve wildlife and tackle wildlife crime, people will rise up to protect it.

“We need conservation biology to be taught aggressively in our curriculum. We need it in our media and entertainment. We have to have this conservation consciousness, which is the first thing to do to preserve our wildlife.

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