Wildlife Trade in Nigeria: A tale of broken Chain

Owolawi Nathaniel is an undergraduate, Department of Wildlife and Ecotourism Management, University of Ibadan.
He has an interest in Ornithology and he is a member of the Ibadan Bird Club (IBC). He is an advocate for sustainable environment and Biodiversity conservation. He is a volunteer with the Wildlife of Africa Conservation Initiative(WACI).

Wildlife Trade in Nigeria: A tale of broken Chain

“Parrot?”, I called, “Yeah, Parrot”, he replied to me. He stopped to give me ‘his potential customer’ attention.

“How much is this?” I asked pointing at a lovely-looking Senegal Parrot.

“Fourteen thousand naira”, he replied.

It was the third time I would see the man hawking parrots, sometimes parakeets in traffic at Bodija market, Ibadan, Nigeria. I was opportune to speak with him that day. I asked how he gets the birds; he said he buys them too. I asked him where he looked at me and asked if I was interested in buying or making inquiries. I told him I wanted to make an inquiry, I should not have said that because he lost interest in answering me as he proceeded to advertise ‘his goods’, could you imagine, our Wildlife!

Most species of Parrots are endangered as some of their species are extinct already as cited by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species(CITES) of which Nigeria is a member nation. It is an offense that this animal is traded and a grievous one it is traded publicly. Unfortunately, this is the case for many endangered Wildlife species.

Parrots

For a trade to be complete there is a chain of merchandise or a line of process and procedure, if at any point this chain is broken, the trade becomes either unsuccessful or difficult. For Nigeria and many countries, the trade cycle runs completely.

This article does not focus on the importance of Wildlife species in the environment but it is clear, these Species are of great benefits in the ecosystem and more to man. For the preservation of these species, there are stakeholders who represent sections in the CHAIN. Let us consider some of these stakeholders and their responsibilities.

First, Legislators: Countries of the world have ministries of Environment, for some countries, this Ministry operates even to the grass-root level local government). Legislators are a strong pillar in Wildlife conservation. They are to make laws to protect Wildlife species, this arm of stakeholders to an extent has played their roles, as there are laws in place to protect nature.

Second, Conservationists: This group of people is supposed to be at the forefront of advocacy, education, initiatives, and research. Recently there has been a rise in the activeness of this category. Organizations like the Wildlife of Africa Conservation Initiative(WACI), Nigeria Conservation Foundation (NCF), Nigeria Society For Environmental Conservation(NSEC), Pangolin Conservation Guide Nigeria at the University of Ibadan are all a testament that this arm of stakeholders are playing an effective role as there has been increased activities and successes in recent years.

Third; Law Enforcement Agency: This set of stakeholders should be the ones protecting these Species; they should make arrests of offenders/trespassers. I can say this group has little to nothing. One wonders if they know the laws protecting Wildlife. They can break this trade chain hence dismantling the free flow of Wildlife Trade.

Fourth; The Executive arm of Government: As it stands, this seems to be the weakest part of the chain, ‘how?’ you ask? One of the primary responsibilities of any government is the welfare of its citizens. This is buttressed even by the SDGs as SDG1 fights for zero hunger and SDG2 fights for Zero poverty. May I point it out here that for my parrot seller friend and many other people involved in the trade, they get involved in this act as means to living. When I saw the Parrots, I saw nature, I saw Wildlife imprisoned but the man saw ‘goods’, he saw ‘wares’.

If he is forced to stop the business, while we may say Wildlife Trade is reduced, on the other hand, we are ending a man’s means of survival too. We will then have to weigh, which is more important, human life or wildlife.

There is a need for poverty alleviation schemes, a need for an improved standard of living, a need for an alternate source of living and means of survival for people to avert their attention from Wildlife Trade. A trade often time begins from locals who are the closest to these resources and are obviously a key point in ensuring the conservation, there is a need for the government to include in conservation plans and strengthen the law enforcement agency to fight this trade.

Fifth, The Locals: These are the real custodians of the environment. Each of the aforementioned stakeholders owes them a responsibility. We may not get anywhere in conservation if they are not involved in most conservation activities as they seem to be the first portal of opening for this trade.

Countries in East Africa have worked on this and have had great success in conservation today. We need to get it right, and the time is NOW!

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