Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has called for the conservation of wildlife, stating that the existence is very important to the survival of nature.
Mr Obasanjo made this known while playing host to the Pangolin Conservation Guild of Nigeria (PCWGN) at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, OOPL, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
He observed that most wildlife animals that could be of benefits to Nigeria are going into extinction as a result of human activities.
In similar development, he charged government at all levels and stakeholders to stop poaching, illegal trafficking and demand for wild animals, stressing the need that biodiversity and wildlife preservation must be given the same attention climate change was given.
The former president called on concerned parties in the Pangolin Conservative Guild Nigeria to continue creating awareness on the benefits of preserving the endangered animals, and also pleaded with Nigerians to preserve wildlife animals in the country rather than destroying them.
“What is happening with the destruction of biodiversity is that the future is being taken away by the present and that is why it is important to preserve our future’, noting the high rate at which wildlife is being destroyed in Nigeria, insisting that if steps are not taken to stop this.
“I was shocked to find out that it is now becoming difficult to get Pangolin. When I was growing up in the village, pangolins were everywhere. I asked what we can do to preserve them and they told me that they (pangolins) do not survive in captivity and I said I don’t believe that that is right.
“It (biodiversity) is almost as bad as climate change and it needs to be given as much attention as climate change has been given attention. Pangolin just happened to be one of other endangered animals, there are a number of others, both vegetation and animals that are disappearing fast and we should stop their disappearance because the more they disappear, the more incomplete our own life and living are.
“We have to make them survive in captivity, raise them and then send them back to the field again and repopulate our forest(s) because they are very innocuous animals. They don’t do you any harm. They are in fact, timid. I don’t believe that they don’t survive in captivity because when I was growing up, we had them, we played with them and they are delicious meat,” Mr Obasanjo said.
The chairperson of PCWGN, Olajumoke Morenikeji, at a colloquium, disclosed that Pangolin is the most trafficked mammal in the world, adding that it is a federal offense to possess, trade or kill pangolins in Nigeria.
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She said, “Pangolin scales are smuggled into Nigeria from neighbouring countries like Benin Republic, Cameroun, Chad Republic and Niger Republic before they are shipped to Asian countries like China, Vietnam, Malaysia, among others.”
Ms Morenikeji, a professor, revealed that more than 100 metric tons of Pangolin scales were seized in various Asian countries all emanating from Nigeria in 2019, adding that more than 250,000 pangolins have been killed to extract the scales.
“The customs in Lagos seized 10.2billion (about $26million) worth of pangolin scales in Lagos and another 9.5 tonnes elsewhere in the country,” she said.
Ray Jasen from Pangolin Conservation in South African in his own presentation said the eyes and focus of the world are on Nigeria, “because Nigeria is the biggest route for the illegal trade of pangolin scales in the world.”
Mr Jasen, a professor, explained that pangolin scales are very expensive, and that a kilogram of pangolin scales sells for $20. He, therefore, called on the government on the need to train security agencies to stop the smuggling of pangolin scales in Nigeria.
“In 2019, 97 tonnes from approximately 170,000 pangolins were shipped out of Nigeria to Asian countries. It is a known fact that, Pangolin scales are on high demand because of the belief that they serve medical purposes.
“In China, there are 60 different commercial products derived from Pangolin scales,” he said, alleging that the illegal trade of Pangolin is being perpetrated by an international crime syndicate.
The traditional ruler of Akinale, in Owu Kingdom of Egbaland, Olufemi Ogunleye, who facilitated the visit to Mr Obasanjo and the colloquium, encouraged the need for the protection and preservation of pangolins in Nigeria.
The royal father disclosed that as his own contributions and genuine efforts towards the preservation of Pangolin, he has provided a large portion of land in his Akinhale community, located in Ewekoro Local Government Area of Ogun State, for the project.