By AKINWANDE GBENGA
Going by the available data and high rates of unwelcoming human activities in the country, it is safe to foretell that in less than a decade to come, Elephants will not be seen around anymore.
Elephants are large mammals of the family Elephantidae of the Proboscidea order. This remains the only surviving family. It should be noted that only three types have been recognized, according to Wikipedia. They are African Bush Elephants, African Forest Elephants and Asian Elephants. These mammals are largely seen in the sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and South East Asia. In Africa, elephants are largely seen in Kenya, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Central African Republic. Nigeria, not been mentioned in this group, does not mean it doesn't have elephants in it's forests. As a matter of fact, Nigeria is a country that has a large mass of land which are still covered by forests. This allows for the existence of wildlife to thrive on it's own outside the authorities' watch and supervision.
THE DECLINING NUMBERS.
In fact, elephants are said to be more in the southern part of Nigeria. According to a report by Pulse News, released in August 2017, elephant species are said to remain just 40 in the south western states of Ondo, Osun and Ogun. This means the total elephant species remaining in Nigeria may be less than 100. This low number is scary and authorities need to step in to prevent total wipe of this mammal from the country.
Generally in Africa, the numbers of existing elephants are declining as well due to lots of factors. But more prevailing factors are activities of poachers, sport hunting, illegal deforestation amongst others. A CNN reporter Liyanti Swamp took a tour of some Southern African countries to run reports on Elephants. Available data says there were about 10 million elephants in the early 20th centuries but that number reduced drastically and in 2016, data revealed the number to be 325,000 elephants remaining. Many out of these numbers are in the sub-Saharan countries. It is then possible that elephants in other countries in the continent are not among these numbers. But one can agree that the same fate or worse than those of these mentioned countries befalls others elephants on the continent.
Swamp reported that Botswanan Government aimed to protect these elephants by deploying Infantry battalion of specially trained soldiers across 40 bases of their reserves to prevent poachers from taking down this specie especially from those hunting the ivory for traditional use.
In Nigeria, it is no more news that our games reserves and zoos are declining especially with many not having elephant specie. This is largely because Government have failed to look into diversifying the economy of the country by looking into Eco-Tourism. The games reserves that once thrived in the country have lost their fame and many are now camps for nomads and their herd. The reserves in the country are dying and yet no attention have been directed to that sector. The places in Southern Nigeria where the elephant species can still be seen are Idanre Forest and Osse River Park, both in Ondo State. Others include Okomu National Park, Edo State; Andoni Island, River State; Omo Forest, Ogun State; Cross Rivers National Park in Cross River State.
Illegal felling of trees in the forest is a contributing factor to the reduction in numbers of the wildlife animals in Southern Nigeria. Many of these forests have been brought down and no replacement done whatsoever. These animals live in the forest, so when deforestation happens, they start to migrate to somewhere more comfortable.
The wildlife animals in these places need to be preserved quickly without hesitation.
IMPACT OF LOCAL COMMUNITIES ON WILDLIFE.
One major problem wildlife faces in Africa is the activities of local communities. Recently in Idanre, a town in Ondo State of Nigeria, a local hunter killed an elephant calf while on hunting expedition. He was celebrated amongst his people as a brave hunter. This and many alike are negatives to the conservation of wildlife. Many local hunters go around the bush praying to sight an endangered specie for that he can be respected among his people. They hunt for sport. Gradually and ignorantly, they take down the numbers of these species from existence. The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is struggling to convince local communities that they can really benefit from protecting wildlife, as it creates employment opportunities and generates income. The Ministries of Agriculture and Environment have a serious task to do in helping these communities and the country at large with aggressive orientation on how the communitiescan benefit from preserving these species. In South Africa, the National Park gets 70% of their income from tourism revenue (lodging, gate fees, restaurants). It is also said that these communities also provide accommodations for a fee to tourists and many locals are engaged as Rangers. Nigeria can also do something along this line after serious orientation has been done.
Botswana, on their own, have in place wise tourism policies. In 1980, the government too Conservativists' advice and began to develop high-revenue, low-revenue tourism. Local communities benefited directly as well because they were employed as Rangers and they made money from providing hospitality for tourists. In 2014, commercial hunting was banned and their conservation policies have allowed protection for these wildlife animals. This may be difficult to do in Nigeria considering the rate of prevailing unemployment but making a law prohibiting hunting of endangered species will go a long way to preserve the wildlife.
Nigeria can also orientate these locals about setting up games reserves for these wildlife and earn revenue from it. The ministry of Agriculture or Environment will be the supervising ministry while the National Parks Authority will be directly in charge of checkmating them and enforcing laws. The Namibian governmentare doing this. Individuals in Namibia are allowed to register and manage reserves and make income from it. Just like the local hunter who only got praised and hyped by his fellow locals for killing an elephant, he could have made a fortune out of that animal if he had captured it alive without hurting it.
If the Nigeria Government is serious about economic diversification, then wildlife tourism could be another source of income boom.
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