By Florence Onuegbu
The Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), has called for collective support against unlawful trade of wildlife, hunting and possession of wildlife parts.
The General Manager of LASEPA, Dr. Dolapo Fasawe, made the call on the heels of the recovery of a sea turtle from an illegal poacher, who was arrested by the officials of the Kick against Indiscipline (KAI), Eti-Osa Zone.
Fasawe said in a statement on Thursday in Lagos, that protecting the wildlife would help to sustain the ecological balance and prevent extinction of some special animals and plants.
She said that ignorance of the general public to the benefits of wildlife is contributing highly to the rate of unchecked illicit trade of the endangered species, by few selfish people against the general interest of all.
”Our awareness advocacy recently paid off, as the officials of the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), Eti-Osa Zone, professionally arrested one Muhammad, who confessed to hunting of sea animals at the ocean and selling to awaiting customers.
”The sea animal was recovered and later released back home into the ocean at oniru beach, in the presence of our natural resource protection team,” the general manager said.
According to her, the laws covering the preservation and conservation of wildlife in Nigeria are largely enshrined in two sets of Acts.
She said that they are the Nigerian Endangered Species Act (Control of International Trade and Traffic) Act, Decree 11 of the 1985 Constitution, and Section 20 of the National Parks Service Act.
Fasawe said that these extant laws in principle regulate the hunting, raring and trade of animals, as well as set up the various game reserves currently existing in Nigeria, including the Yankari, and Borgu game reserves, Okomu and Old Oyo National parks, among others.
The existing laws allow for a fine of N5 million or one year jail term for the illicit trade of endangered animals in Nigeria.
”Lagos State is a largely urban setting, with the fastest growing population in Africa.
”The per capita needs such as housing, industrialisation, recreational centres and other amenities pose danger to existence of some special animals and plants with limited availability of land for conservation activities,” she said.
The general manager, however, said that LASEPA is striving to maintain balance by diligently monitoring the effects of these undesirable activities on the environment and also protect the native wildlife population.
She said that this was by insisting on a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), as a mandatory requirement before the commencement of any projects, in a bid to savage the comfort zone.
Fasawe said that as a port city, Lagos is vulnerable to illicit trade of these treasured species, therefore, the agency had embarked on aggressive advocacy, improved surveillance and monitoring activities.
According to her, the peculiarities of wildlife conservation and management require all three levels of government to clearly map out policies to prevent trafficking of these precious species, through various airports and seaports across the state.
”Therefore, there is the need to create several layers of policies and checks to protect our precious biodiversity and also ensure that people acts responsibly by totally avoiding poaching, unhealthy gaming and habitation destruction (bush burning, deforestation,” she said.
Fasawe said that LASEPA has improved its baseline data collection, identification of endangered animal species and protected areas, botanical tagging of special trees/plants, in addition to strengthening the policies at state and local levels.
She listed the green turtle, African savanna elephant, western gorilla, white bellied pangolin, black rhino and grey parrots as endangered species facing varying threats, as a result of unlawful sales, habitat destruction, fashion trend, domestication amongst others.
Tree plant such as sandbox tree, pine tree, anta root, cabbage tree, African mahogany and stool wood are categorised as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), due to over exploitation and medicinal relevance. (NAN)