In a bid to improve and maintain the ecosystem, the Lagos State Government has rescued a giant-size sea turtle from a suspected poacher, Isiaka Muhammad, just as it advocated for better protection of wildlife species across the country.
It said that the wildlife animal was recovered from the poacher and has been returned into the Atlantic Ocean where it could continuously develop and serve an important function in the sustenance of the ecosystem.
The giant-size turtle was intercepted from Muhammed, and returned into the Ocean by the state government through its agencies, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), and officials of the Kick against Indiscipline (KAI), Eti-Osa zone.
As gathered, the suspected poacher confessed to the agency personnel that he often hunts sea animals at the ocean and sells them to awaiting customers within the state.
Expressing concerns over the level of ignorance by the public including the suspected poacher on the importance of wildlife, General Manager of the LASEPA, Dr. Dolapo Fasawe stated that the awareness campaign done by the agency had started yielding desired results.
Fasawe noted that the actions of Muhammed and the buyers were contributing highly to the rate of unchecked illicit trade of the endangered species by few selfish people against the general interest of all.
In order not to encourage poachers, she noted that the sea animal was recovered and later released into the ocean at Oniru beach where this species does not need time before acclimatizing
According to her, the laws covering the preservation and conservation of wildlife in Nigeria are largely enshrined in two sets of Acts, namely: The Nigerian Endangered Species Act (Control of International Trade and Traffic) Act, Decree 11 of the 1985 Constitution, and Section 20 of the National Parks Service Act.
Through a statement by the agency’s Chief Public Affairs Officer, Bola Ajao, on Thursday, she added that these extant laws in principle regulate the hunting, raring, and trade of animals, as well as set up the various game reserves we currently have in Nigeria including the Yankari, and Borgu game reserves, Okomu and Old Oyo National parks as well as others.
LASEPA boss said:” Lagos State is a largely urban setting with the fastest growing population in Africa. The per capita needs such as housing, industrialization, recreational centres, and other amenities pose danger to the existence of some special animals and plants with limited availability of land for conservation activities”.
She, however, stressed that LASEPA is striving to maintain balance by diligently monitoring the effects of these undesirable activities on the environment and also protects our native wildlife population by insisting on a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as a mandatory requirement before the commencement of any projects, in a bid to salvage our comfort zone.
As a port city, the General Manager maintained that Lagos is vulnerable to illicit trade of these treasured species, and therefore; the agency has embarked on aggressive advocacy, improved surveillance, and monitoring activities.
“It is worthy to note that peculiarities of wildlife conservation and management require all three levels of government to clearly map and detail policies to prevent trafficking of these precious species through various airports and seaports across the state, Therefore; the need to create several layers of policies and checks to protect our precious biodiversity and also ensure that people act responsibly by totally avoiding poaching, unhealthy gaming and habitation destruction (bush burning, deforestation. she noted.
“To achieve the Lagos of our dreams, LASEPA remains committed to ensuring fair and responsible use of the environment in the State, by harmoniously working in relationship with other relevant MDAs such as the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, Ministry of Agriculture, LASPARK and Ministry of Health to build a holistic framework by which we can adequately protect the precious flora and fauna in Lagos”.
She further stated that LASEPA has improved its baseline data collection, identification of endangered animal species and protected areas, botanical tagging of special trees/plants in addition to strengthening the policies at State and local levels.
The agency listed the green turtle, African savanna elephant, western gorilla, white-bellied pangolin, black rhino, and grey parrots as endangered species facing varying threats as a result of unlawful sales, habitat destruction, fashion trend, domestication amongst others. Tree plants such as sandbox trees, pine trees, anta roots, cabbage trees, African mahogany, and stool wood are categorized as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to overexploitation and medicinal relevance.
Unlike in the past, the population is more aware of the dangers inherent in the extinction of conservation wildlife and destruction of protected reserved ecological areas and has been advised to report incidents of poaching or illegal trade to the appropriate authorities for action.
LASEPA campaigns against the open market sale of special animals and plants and therefore clamours for self-regulation and discipline against the use of force. The existing laws allow for a fine of 5million or a one-year jail term for the illicit trade of endangered animals in Nigeria.