by Olutayo IRANTIOLA
The 3rd of March has been choosen as the World Wildlife Day and the 2019 edition is on Life below water. Our crew engaged a Ph.D student at the University of Saskatchewan, Olukayode Jegede, a Zoologist and Toxicologist based in Canada, he had his first degree and Masters Degree in Zoology at the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and his area of study is the toxic effect of metals on soil invertebrates and their habitat, herein below is the excerpt:
PDC: What’s the World Wildlife Day about?
KAY: The world wildlife day is a day to appreciate and celebrate the wild plants and animals we have around us. The day has the sole purpose of making us aware of wildlife around us and our responsibilities in ensuring sustainability of wildlife.
PDC: The theme for the year is “Life Below Water: for people and planet” and we know that there has been a lot of land reclamation around Lagos and some South Southern states in Nigeria, what are the implications of this to the ecosystem in Nigeria?
KAY: This year’s theme is tagged “life below water” and it means that for this year, awareness is for under-water animals or plants and how we can sustain them. One of the main ways to sustain life below water is to ensure their habitat is not destroyed. One of the greatest threats facing aquatic and terrestrial wildlife is destruction of habitats or habitat loss. In some coastal Southern States of Nigeria, this is a big issue. Land reclamation from the sea has been at the forefront of many real estate developers’ way of creating ocean-view or water-front properties. The ocean-view/water-front properties attract more price to acquire and so this is big business. This has caused a number of aquatic wildlife to be lost to destruction of their habitats. Many rare species that perhaps could only be found in this part of the world might also have gone extinct for this reason. The water ecosystem is kept unbalanced and many marine resources are lost. These are some of the reasons why awareness about the wildlife around us is important.
PDC: We are so used to seeing the waters for just marine transport, what are the other notable marine resources that are available for existence in the waters?
KAY: Water makes up about 70% of the total earth’s surface and it contains more species of organisms (plants and animals) than we have on land. As a result of this, there are so many resources that can be derived from marine life. Asides being a way to connect places together via marine transport, it can serve as big revenue generating means in other ways. Some of the developed Nations like Norway earns a lot of money exporting fish to the whole world. There are also other sea foods that can be gotten from the ocean to serve as healthy food for humans. Some of the richest source of omega fatty acids for humans comes from fish. There are countries that also make a lot of money from under-water tourism where people or sea divers pay to go under the water to observe the beautiful life under water. There are deposits of minerals in the sea like metals and precious metals. It is also common knowledge that a lot of petroleum crude oil are gotten from fossil fuels buried in the sea and which is a major income earner for a country like Nigeria. In order to keep having marine resources at our disposal, there must be conscious effort to sustainably utilize and conserve these resources.
PDC: Having traveled on Lagos waterways, one has seen a lot of water hyacinth, dirt and even oil on the waters, what are the implications of this for life below the waters?
KAY: Using water as a waste dump is common to humans and this is why there are world-wide aggressive awareness about how to keep our water and life that depends on water, safe. Using Lagos waterways as an example, there are usually all kinds of dirt on the water like oil, general household wastes, plastics etc. Invasive species like water hyacinths are also common sights on Lagos waterways. The water hyacinths just like any weed, competes with the localized species for oxygen, space, nutrients and often times outcompete the localized species. Livelihood of fishermen are usually lost to water hyacinth because fishes and other marine organisms do not thrive well under such circumstances. Water hyacinth also disrupt travel on waterways because it narrows down space to travel through the water which may result in boat accidents and mishaps.
PDC: Another interesting thing about water is that it connects, from the stream, to the rivers, to the lagoon and ultimately to the sea. Interestingly, there are various religious beliefs involving sacrifices in the water, what are the impacts of these activities on the larger body of waters?
KAY: Water is connected to one another through tributaries. Smaller water bodies like streams, lagoons, rivers and lakes are connected to the ocean through tributaries. Therefore, there are always feedbacks back and forth the water-ways. This means that a harm to a small water body is a harm to the larger water body. In Nigeria, communities that are close to water bodies usually have cultural and religious links with water. They ascribe spiritual powers to waters around them and perform religious rites to connect with the supposed water powers. There are incidences of throwing food and clothing into the water to appease some water gods which unknowingly damaging to water life. Such practices as this may be detrimental to species living within the water and even to humans.
PDC: What is the best way of maintaining the ecosystem of the waterways?
KAY: The best way of maintaining the ecosystem of waterways is to be conscious of the ecosystem and sustainably use them. For example, there are some sizes of fishes that should be allowed to be caught in order to control and keep the population constant. There are times of the year that fishermen are restricted to fish or catch sea animals for food. People should be discouraged from throwing their wastes into water so as not to kill fauna and biota that inhabit the water. Indiscriminate land reclamation should be discouraged and ocean-view property developments should be seriously regulated by the government. There should be more awareness and educational campaigns in coastal communities or other communities that are surrounded by water as to sustainably using water and water resources. The Government must be in the forefront of ensuring the sustainably use of water resources. Policies need to be made to that effect and laws should be enforced to ensure the citizenry complies with sustainability of the water ecosystem.
…to be continued