WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY 2016
The World Environment Day (WED) is a day that has been set aside by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to deepen public awareness on the need to preserve and enhance the environment.
The date recalls the opening day of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment which was held on the 5th to 16th June, 1972 in Stockholm. The conference led to the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Following the conference, WED is celebrated annually on the 5th of June.
The overarching aim of WED annual commemoration is to stimulate awareness of environmental challenges and inspire political attention and public action in safeguarding the environment. Furthermore, WED is celebrated annually in order to continually inspire collective responsibility such that more people around the world will take action to prevent the growing strain on planet Earth’s natural systems from reaching breaking point.
The 2016 WED theme is the Fight against the Illegal Trade in Wildlife. The theme is borne out of the need to curb illegal trade in wildlife, an activity which erodes our precious biodiversity and threatens the survival of some species such as elephants, rhinos, gorillas, tigers and sea turtles as well as many others that are less celebrated such as helmeted hornbills, pangolins and wild orchids. These wildlife animals are being killed and smuggled thereby undermining global economies, fuelling organized crime and feeding corruption and insecurity across the globe. This year’s slogan “Go Wild For Life” is to encourage everyone to spread the word about wildlife crime and the damage it does, and to challenge all those around us to do what they can to prevent it.
The major threat to wildlife diversity in Nigeria is in two folds namely; habitat destruction and direct poaching. Protected areas such as forest reserves, games reserves and national parks are witnessing massive encroachment and deforestation resulting from farming, grazing, logging (including illegal wood export) as well as construction activities as a result of rapid urbanization. These activities are removing natural vegetation protecting wild animals thus exposing them to poaching activities (illegal hunting or killing of wild animals) threatening the country’s wildlife species. Prior to now, wild animals are hunted as bush meat to be consumed as a major source of protein or sold for subsistence by rural populations living near forests and wildlife habitats. Over the years, wildlife hunting has graduated to illegal commercial trade not restricted to local markets but include export of wildlife-part due to their lucrative nutritional, religion, medicinal and ornamental values leaving a large number of Nigerian wildlife species locally threatened.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), threatened wildlife species in Nigeria include Preuss's Monkeys (Cercopithecus preussi), Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), Western Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla), Crocodiles (Crocodylinae), African Elephants (Loxodonta africana), Lions (Panthera leo), Savanna Swamp Shrew (Crocidura longipes), Pangolins (Pholidota) etc with some of the species critically endangered globally.
The Nigerian government in its effort to conserve biodiversity is signatory to some environmental multilateral agreements on the use of natural resources such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Over the years, the government has domesticated some of these agreements by enacting laws as well as evolving regulations. Notable amongst these regulations is the National Environmental (Protection of Endangered Species in International Trade) Regulations, S. I. 16 of 2011. These laws were enacted to protect species of endangered wildlife from extinction through the prohibition of killing, trading, smuggling and importation.
In addition, Nigeria has developed Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP) with a vision of sustainable development in the new millennium. The operational approach in the development of this BSAP was the establishment of an adaptive process that provides national goals, priority setting, and frameworks for addressing biodiversity conservation; sustainable use of biological resources; equitable sharing of benefits; conservation of agro-biodiversity and biosafety.
Other ongoing efforts of Nigeria government include promotion of enrichment planting to restore forests across the country, domestication of wild animals which serves as bush meat to prevent depletion, development of National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) in line with CITES recommendations to help combat the illegal trade in ivory, development of anti-poaching strategy in priority sites and awareness creation across the country.
Although emerging local and global initiatives and concerted campaigns to curb this illicit activities has yielded some positive outcome, however the risk to these species are still considerably high. In view of this, more work needs to be done in creating awareness and campaigns to increase the pressure on governments and international bodies as well as influence policy and considerable investments in conservation and law enforcement to aggressively protect our biodiversity.
To this end, the WED 2016 presents an opportunity for Nigeria to revisit her commitment to curb illegal trade in wildlife and protect our biodiversity. As a nation, there is need to set new targets and work towards it. There is need to enforce our extant laws and raise more awareness in order to enlighten Nigerians about the damage this illicit business is doing to our environment and biodiversity, economies, communities and security. In addition, there is need for the government to build capacity and provide logistical support for CITES enforcement in the country. Specifically, another key aspect of this campaign in Nigeria will be to sensitize people on the need to adopt a behavioral change to protect biodiversity by not demanding for wildlife products in order to discourage illegal hunting and killing of wildlife.
African Elephants rated as Vulnerable by IUCN due to Poaching Activities.
Photo: Courtesy UNEP
GEHS WED Activities
As an organization, GEHS is committed to inform, educate and empower the general public about the link between the environment and human health as well as encourage positive actions that promote environmental sustainability and human health. In view of this and in line with UNEP’s goal regarding the WED and the theme for 2016, GEHS will be creating necessary awareness in joining the fight against the illegal trade in wildlife by educating the public on the inherent danger illegal trade in wildlife poses to our ecological biodiversity. We are also poised to encourage the public to show zero tolerance for illegal trade in wildlife and to take action to help safeguard our biodiversity for future generations.
To this end, an expert in Biodiversity Conservation enlightened participants comprising of environmental regulatory officers as well as environmental managers drawn from diverse industries including Food & Beverage, Manufacturing, Construction, Electricity, Oil & Gas, Housing and Waste Management facilities about biodiversity conservation and the risk of endangerment of wildlife species at the Environmental Management Course (EMC) held on the 23rd – 27th May 2016 at the GEHS Learning and Meeting Arena, Mabushi, Abuja. For more information … Click Here
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