Former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday called for concerted efforts by stakeholders to end indiscriminate destruction of wildlife and animals in Nigeria.
Obasanjo, who spoke at a breakfast meeting with members of the Pangolin Conservation Guild of Nigeria, said biodiversity conservation must be given as much attention as the issue of climate change.
The meeting, which was held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta, was part of activities lined up to commemorate the 2020 World Pangolin Day, scheduled for February 15.
Professors Olajumoke Morenikeji and Ray Jansen, who were among the promoters of the campaign, expressed concern that pangolins had become endangered species and the most trafficked mammal in the world.
Both Morenikeji and Jansen said more than 70 per cent of the trafficked pangolins originated from Nigeria, adding that there was the need to create public awareness to put an end to poaching and trafficking.
In his remarks, Obasanjo noted that most wildlife animals that could benefit Nigeria and its people had been sent into extinction through human activities.
The former president, who identified negligence and ignorance as part of reasons for the destruction of biodiversity, stressed the need for citizens to revive some cultural practices that had gone into extinction.
He said: “In Africa, we believe about the past, the spirit of our ancestors and we keep them because they are part of our lives, we believe in the present, that is ourselves and everything around us and we believe in the future. So, the life on an African is made up of the past, the present and the future.
“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.
“So, when they said the idea of pangolin masquerade parades is on, I say good idea. Pangolin, the future; masquerade, the past; and we here, the present; I think nothing can be better.
“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.
“We have to make them survive in captivity, raise them and then send them back to the field again and repopulate our forest, because they are very innocuous animals, they don’t do you any harm, they are in fact timid.
“I have taken responsibility for biodiversity preservation. 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 happen to be one of other endangered animals, there are a number of others, both vegetational and animals that are disappearing fast and we should stop their disappearance, because the more they disappear, the more incomplete our own lives and living would be.”
Speaking, Prof Morenikeji of the Department of Zoology, University of Ibadan, revealed that over one million pangolin scales had been shipped from Africa since 2009, resulting in huge revenue loss to the continent.