Conservationists in Nigeria have raised the alarm on the threat of elephant population in Nigeria saying if urgent action is not taken, they could be wiped out in the next decade.
A statement by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) made available to some newsmen in Calabar said “in recent years Africa has experienced dramatic growth in human-elephant conflict. Elephants are competing with people for land and dwindling natural resources. If existing conflicts are not resolved, and future conflicts not avoided, the prospect of Africa’s elephants thriving across their range in 2030 and beyond are bleak”.
The statement which was issued by the Country Director, Nigeria Program, WCS, Mr. Andrew Dunn said, “at the same time, poaching for ivory remains a serious threat to elephant populations in some parts of Africa. Many elephants now live in small and isolated populations; if current trends continue, these could be wiped out in the next decade.
He said hundreds of thousands of elephants once roamed across the country but “as a result of poaching for their ivory and habitat loss, it is estimated that less than 400remain today”. Elephants are on the very edge of extinction in Nigeria. Nigeria has two different species of elephant: forest elephants in the south and savanna elephants in the north hence the he Federal Ministry of Environment, with support for the WCS and the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI), organized a two-day workshop in Abuja to draft a National Elephant Action Plan (NEAP) to save Nigeria’s remaining elephants.
According to the statement, the EPI is an alliance of 21 African countries determined to conserve their elephants whilst meeting the aspirations of their people. EPI countries are committed to “implementing the African Elephant Action Plan (AEAP) agreed by all range States in 2010, maintaining the international ban on the ivory trade, closing down domestic ivory markets and putting ivory stockpiles beyond economic use”.
On the other hand, he said the AEAP for Nigeria aims to “identify sites where elephants still occur and the threats/constraints at each site, agree priority actions for elephant conservation at each site, provide government endorsement and prioritization of conservation actions, increase awareness of the status and threats to the country’s elephants and their ecosystems across a broad range of partners and function as a fundraising tool to help generate the resources required to implement these conservation actions.
“Participants acknowledged that elephant conservation in Nigeria has suffered due to the lack of funding available, and also by the lack of political support for conservation from some state governments. The National Elephant Action Plan (NEAP) aims to draw attention to the endangered status of elephants in the country and to galvanize necessary action. Ultimately the NEAP will need to be used as tool to generate greater awareness, as well as the political support and funding required to save elephants in Nigeria”.
Ten elephant sites in Nigeria were identified including three national parks and a list of priority actions needed to save elephants at each site was produced and five small isolated sites have fewer than 50 elephants each and so could be wiped out in less than 10 years unless urgent action is taken. Despite the threats it is not too late to save elephants from extinction in Nigeria, but significant resources and improved political support will be required, Dunn said.