A few weeks ago, the video of a Manatee, cruelly dragged along a very rough and dusty road in Delta state, went viral on Twitter. No fewer than 6 people tied a rope around the Manatee’s neck and dragged it – by the rope – on the floor until the Manatee died. Other people in the video watched with glee while making a record of the barbaric act.
In Nigeria, it is not uncommon to watch videos like that; of wild animals either starved, murdered or treated cruelly. The commonness of these videos and the ignorance with which people happily practice animal cruelty is proof that wildlife in Nigeria is endangered.
Today, World Wildlife Day with the theme: Sustaining All Life On Earth, is a day set aside to raise awareness about the animals and plant species in the world that are under threat. Animals who are meant to be protected by humans, but hunted, forced to leave their natural abode and made to live under harsh and unfavourable conditions.
The Wildlife Day is celebrated with concerns about sustaining wildlife – which includes animals and plants.
Today is the perfect day to reiterate the fact that, just like humans, animals have blood pumping in their hearts, and air passing through their lungs. They are not shielded against pain or hunger, so when we treat them with brutality or starve them, we pose as a threat to their existence. Plants are living things too and destroying them is a perfect way of destroying the world we live in.
Nigeria is one country with diverse wildlife. There are close to 300 species of mammals and 940 species of birds, and majority of them are housed in different zoos across the country. Unfortunately, more work needs to be done in preserving wildlife in Nigeria, especially as there have been many cases of animals in Nigerian zoos being starved to death and maltreated. Many animals in Nigeria like the West African lion, the Cross River Gorilla, Cameroonian forest shrew, White-throated guenon, Red-eared guenon and so on, are also going extinct. This is mostly because the Government has made little or no effort to ensure that wildlife in Nigeria is well preserved.
To celebrate World Wildlife Day in Nigeria, we all have to make a conscious effort in ensuring that our ‘undomesticated’ animals are safe. One way this can be done is by putting laws in place to ensure that people who partake in animal cruelty are made to face the law.
Currently, Nigeria does not have a national law for the preservation of wildlife, game reserves in the country are not effectively policed, and the law against animal cruelty is outdated. For instance, the law protecting animals in Nigeria, in the 1999 constitution, states that “any person who cruelly beats, kicks, ill-treats, over-rides, over-drives, over-loads, tortures, infuriates, or terrifies any animal, or causes or procures, or, being the owner, permits any animal to be so used “is guilty of an offence of cruelty and is liable to imprisonment for six months or to a fine of fifty naira, or to both such imprisonment and fine.” Fifty Naira, in today’s economy, means nothing. This means that the law needs to be looked into and amended.
Wildlife conservation in Nigeria needs to be heavily funded – with the funds disbursed in the right places. Proper funding and maintenance of Wildlife conservation centres will ensure that animals are given proper care, can live well and (if possible) reproduce so that their species will not go into extinction.
There is also the (urgent) need for proper educational programmes to enlighten Nigerians on why certain animals shouldn’t end up in the pot of soup. With basic education, stringent rules and matching consequences for those who flout rules, we can avoid animal cruelty and prevent the situation of animals being dragged about on the streets – like the case of that Manatee.
We also need to put a stop to deforestation and cultivate the habit of planting trees. Overgrazing, insurgency, global warming, etc., are few causes of deforestation in Nigeria and in light of the current change in climate, this needs to be tackled if we want to have a safe world to live in.
To ‘sustain all life on earth’, you have to start from your homes too. If you are fond of starving your ‘Bingo’ until it is forced to poke its nose into your neighbours’ bins, perhaps it is time to have a rethink of whether you deserve to have a dog or you need to give it to someone who can properly cater for its needs.
It is also imperative to start planting trees. If you need to cut down trees for certain purposes, you should plant another one to replace it. Cultivate that habit!
Happy World Wildlife Day people! Be nice to all living things.
Photo Credit: wildlifeday.org