Dr Muhtari Aminu-Kano, the Director-General, Nigerian Conservation Foundation, says the activities of forest poachers and illegal lumbers can make the country lose its unique flora and wildlife if left unchecked.
Aminu-Kano made the claim in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Tuesday at the Omo Elephant Forest Initiative at Area J4 in Ijebu-East Local Government Area.
The five-day programme is organised by NCF for a field orientation training in conjunction with the Ogun State Ministry of Forestry for 120 newly recruited foresters and boundary guards at the forest reserve.
According to him, endangered species have been declining in population and dealing with habitat loss. The species have been susceptible to hunting, disease and threats of climate change.
Aminu-Kano called for a hands-on approach where more environmental law enforcement and manpower development through employment of more park rangers could help salvage Nigeria’s wildlife resources.
“Poaching is a major threat in these parts due to the culture of eating bush meat and not replenishing by rearing the meat we consume.
“We prefer just to go and harvest from the wild just to indulge our cravings not factoring that some animals we hunt down have a slow reproductive cycle of development.
“Some even go to the extent of bush-burning just to chase out animals to hunt and in the process destroy delicate and peculiar flora and fauna which are unique resources to us.
“Habitat degradation and overexploitation of wildlife are one of the major threats to forest and wildlife in Nigeria,” he said.
The conservation expert added that the NCF was looking to provide more protection for the critically endangered species unique to the country.
“Our major interest right now as an organisation is providing protection for the critically endangered ones, which are animals and plants that are unique to us as they can only be found in Nigeria and nowhere else.
“These are those we refer to as the endemics, those if they are wiped out means the world has lost the benefit of having those animals in existence hence they be classified as extinct,” he said.
He listed the flagship species hunted for their value in the black market as the West African lion, elephants, pangolins and the apes; monkeys, chimpanzees, baboons and gorillas.
He said that these animals had species peculiar to the Nigerian terrain and with very few populations at present, adding that they were necessary for examining the existence of other species in the forest.
“For example, if you wipe out an elephant population from a piece of forest, you are also wiping out a lot of other organisms because some organisms will depend on the dung of elephants to grow and survive.
“Some plant seeds, unless they are eaten by elephants and egested out will not germinate so those kind of key flagship species are also some of the ones we are concerned about,” Aminu-Kano said.
The NCF boss stressed the need for more park rangers known as forest guards in Nigeria, and gave reasons why more hands needed to be employed considering the capacity gap between retiring veterans and new recruits.
“We have some capacity in forest management but not enough.