The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) and U.S.-based international wildlife conservation organisation, WildAid, are collaborating to tackle the challenge of widespread consumption of bush-meat in Nigeria.
The United States-based wildlife conservationist body made this known in a statement issued in Abuja on Wednesday by Mr Oladapo Soneye, its Head of Communications.
It said the partnership would seek to drive a media awareness campaign to reduce bush-meat consumption in four key urban centres, particularly in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Calabar.
The bush-meat campaign aims to reduce urban demand for bush-meat, especially species protected by wildlife legislation, and improve inter-agency collaboration to enforce existing wildlife laws.
The campaign will engage popular celebrities in Nollywood, music, business and football, as well as local conservationists to produce communication materials such as public service announcements, mini-documentaries, posters, social media content and billboard messages.
This will help to shift behaviour around bush-meat consumption, while also working with government agencies across various sectors to improve enforcement and communication of existing wildlife legislations, the statement said.
“A new survey commissioned by us has shown that many Nigerians are concerned about the impacts their consumption is having on wild animals, and are very much open to change,” the statement further said.
It added: “We are thrilled to partner with NCF in order to effectively communicate to the public what is no longer just a conservation problem with few consequences, but a national concern that can have outsize impacts on cultures, economies and the environment,” said Tara Kilachand, Africa Programme Manager, WildAid.
“While bush-meat is an important part of rural food security, rapid urbanization has caused a soaring urban demand for bush-meat, despite widely available and affordable alternative protein sources,” the statement said.
According to WildAid, the growing appetite also threatens wildlife populations in Nigeria and increases the risk of zoonotic disease transmission.
It noted that key species, such as the Cross River gorilla, West African lion, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, as well as the leopard, elephant and pangolin face sustained threats to their survival due to human-induced pressures.
Such pressures, it said, also included poaching for the bush-meat trade, wildlife trafficking and traditional medicine.
Massive tracts of wild habitats are also being lost to bush burning, illegal logging, agricultural encroachment and infrastructure development such as road construction, it further noted.
The statement continued: “NCF is excited to work with WildAid on the campaign to reduce bush-meat consumption in Nigeria. Through this project, other issues such as illegal wildlife trade, poaching and over-exploitation of forest will be dealt with in the long run.
“With a lot of awareness creation in local communities, reorientation of the urban dwellers, and encouraging security agents to enforce relevant laws, a positive impact is achievable.” Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, Director General, NCF, said.
Nigeria has emerged as a major transit hub for illegal wildlife products in West Africa, particularly elephant ivory and pangolin scales that are smuggled from the rest of the continent, it said.
Traders and middlemen involved in the commercial bush-meat trade are now being co-opted to work with poachers and organized criminal networks dealing in the illegal wildlife trade.
The statement stressed that “with its large population and pan-African reach through music, the media and the film industry, Nigeria has the potential to be a regional leader on wildlife issues.
“By promoting national efforts in Nigeria to conserve wildlife as a key component of a holistic developmental agenda, the campaign hopes to inspire a deep sense of pride among Nigerians to protect and preserve wildlife for broader economic and environmental gains,” it added. (NAN)