Nigeria’s wildlife is under severe threat from illegal hunting, poaching, and habitat loss, as recent incidents of killing endangered elephants and booted eagles have shown. The government has launched an investigation into these cases, but more action is needed to protect the country’s rich biodiversity and ensure its stability and prosperity.
The killing of two elephants by a soldier in Borno State, captured on a video that went viral on X, has sparked public outrage and condemnation. The elephants were among the less than 400 remaining in Nigeria, which has lost over 70% of its elephant population in the last 30 years. The elephants were reportedly roaming in farmlands, indicating a possible human-elephant conflict, which is one of the main threats to their survival, along with habitat loss and poaching for ivory.
The elephants were not the only victims of wildlife killings in Nigeria. Two booted eagles, a migratory bird species that is protected by international conventions, were killed in Kebbi and Sokoto states last month. Another elephant was killed in Ibadan by a university professor, who claimed he was acting in self-defence. These incidents show a lack of awareness and respect for wildlife conservation among some Nigerians, as well as weak enforcement of the laws and regulations that are supposed to protect wildlife.
Nigeria is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates the trade of wildlife products to prevent the extinction of species. However, Nigeria is also a major source and destination of illegal wildlife trafficking, especially ivory and pangolin scales, which are in high demand in Asia for their perceived medicinal value. The illegal wildlife trade not only threatens the biodiversity of Nigeria, but also fuels corruption, violence, and insecurity, as it is often linked to armed groups, militias, or terrorists.
The Minister of State for Environment, Iziaq Salako, said that the government would investigate all the recent wildlife killings and that there was an “urgent need for enhanced awareness” of the importance of wildlife preservation. The head of CITES and wildlife management at the Ministry of Environment, Bosede Olukanni, said that the wildlife killings were only a few examples of the challenges facing wildlife in the country.
The implications of the wildlife killings for Nigeria are:
- Nigeria could lose its rich biodiversity and ecosystem services, which are essential for its economic development, food security, and cultural heritage.
- Nigeria could face international sanctions or penalties for violating CITES and other environmental agreements, and damage its reputation as a responsible member of the global community.
- Nigeria could experience more conflict and violence, as wildlife is often a target or a victim of armed groups, militias, or terrorists who use it for funding, intimidation, or retaliation.
To prevent these negative consequences, Nigeria needs to take more effective and comprehensive measures to protect its wildlife, such as:
- Strengthening the enforcement of the existing laws and regulations that protect wildlife, and prosecuting the perpetrators of wildlife killings and trafficking.
- Enhancing the awareness and education of the public and the stakeholders on the value and importance of wildlife conservation, and promoting the participation and cooperation of the local communities in wildlife management.
- Expanding and improving the habitat and corridors for wildlife, and reducing the human-wildlife conflict by providing alternative livelihoods and compensation for the affected farmers.
- Supporting the research and monitoring of the wildlife population and distribution, and developing and implementing the national and regional action plans for wildlife conservation.