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Wildlife: SER, Partners share tips to aid  Anti-trafficking efforts in Nigeria 

….Mark World Pangolin Day 2024 at UNILAG Museum of Natural History

The Nigerian government has been urged not to rest on its oars but reinvigorate the fight against illegal wildlife trade and trafficking which poses significant threats to the nation’s wellbeing.

The Society for Ecological Restoration, SER,  University of Lagos, UNILAG, and its partners including the University of California Los Angeles and The Pangolin Research Group, UNILAG,  made the call at the commemoration of the 2024 World Pangolin Day.

They observed that based on data received from various sources including media reports, research bodies and Non-Governmental Organizations, the authorities in Nigeria have been doing commendable jobs in fighting wildlife crimes, but need to put more efforts, given the seriousness of the problem.

Organized by the SER in conjunction with the Pangolin Research Group, the event was  held at the UNILAG Museum of Natural History, under the theme,” Exploring the dark web: unveiling the underground trade in endangered species.

In his address, the head of the SER, Dr. Excellence Akeredolu stated that the illegal wildlife trade posed a significant threat not only to the survival of wildlife species, especially the endangered Pangolins, but also to the delicate balance of ecosystems and the nation’s socio-economic well-being.

According to Akeredolu, “The rampant and unscrupulous trafficking of these remarkable creatures, driven by the insatiable demand for their scales and meat, has pushed them to the brink of extinction. It is our moral duty, as custodians of this planet, to protect and conserve these incredible species and the ecosystems they inhabit”, he submitted.

Akeredolu said the gathering was particularly important as it was among others convened to share the culmination of seven years of dedicated research, undertaken by the SER and its esteemed partners towards sustainable protection and conservation of the Pangolins.

He noted that “today’s program holds immense significance as it is aimed to bridge the gap between research and action by providing law enforcement agencies with vital information that can help them tackle the challenges posed by illegal wildlife trade in Nigeria. We firmly believe that by dismantling the dark web of this illicit trade, we can produce a beacon of hope for Pangolins and other wildlife facing similar threats.
“On behalf of our esteemed partners from the University of California Los Angeles, I warmly welcome all of you to the World Pangolin Day 2 event, where we gather to shed light on the issues of illegal wildlife trade and explore ways to combat this grave threat to our precious wildlife.
“Conservation is not a solitary endeavor; it requires collective action and a united front. Today, we stand together to declare our commitment to wildlife conservation, to raise awareness about the dire consequences of illegal wildlife trade, and to empower those who have the power to enforce the law.
“By working hand in hand, we can ensure that the dark web of illegal wildlife trade is dismantled, and victory is achieved in the relentless battle to safeguard our precious Pangolins and other wildlife”, he stated.
In a paper delivered virtually, Dr. Jen Tinsman from the University of California Los Angeles recommended that the Nigerian government target all cargo shipments from illegal wildlife trade and trafficking hotspots like Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Garbon for inspection and enforcement.
Tinsman who identified Nigeria as among the countries trying in their anti-wildlife trafficking efforts, also urged the country to enhance its capacity for testing confiscated wildlife samples, to ascertain their origins, which is vital for winning the fight.
She also recommended close synergy among nations in the continent in the fight.

According to her, Nigeria and other African nations should, “target cargo shipments from hotspot countries like Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Garbon for inspection and enforcement.

 “Take forensic samples of every shipment including information- where did the cargo ship originate? Where was its destination?
“Increase coordination between governments to facilitate the sharing of confiscated samples and Anti-trafficking information.
“Build in-entry testing capacity to close the time gap between seizures and genotyping, enabling near real-time monitoring of the Pangolin trade in African countries”.

Slides shared by Tinsman showed that of 1.1 million seized Pangolin products reported, 955,353 were made of individual species from Africa.
In terms of Anti-trafficking efforts, the highest seizures were recorded in Asia, followed by Africa, while Europe occupied the third position. Nigeria occupied the third position in the chart of countries’ efforts in combatting illegal wildlife trade and trafficking.

Pupils of the University of Lagos Women Society Nursery and Primary School and the University of Lagos Staff School, who attended the event in their numbers, said it was a memorable outing for them to have in-depth knowledge about the Pangolins.

The event which was held both physically and virtually has participants from different parts of the world.

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