by Olutayo IRANTIOLA
by Olutayo Irantiola
Last week, we started a discussion on the World Wildlife Day with Olukayode Jegede, here is the concluding part of the discussion on “Life Below Water: for people and planet”. Have a good time reading it
PDC: Can you mention some of the water animals that have gone into extinction?
KAY: There have been a number of extinctions of species (aquatic and terrestrial) since the evolution of man. In recent times, the Baiji has been declared extinct. It is a freshwater dolphin found only in China. It was last seen in 2002 and the extinction was due to massive industrialization in China, over-fishing, hydro-electricity generation and transportation. There are a number of aquatic species that are on the list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as being endangered or close to extinction. A typical example is the Hawksbill turtle. It is a colourful turtle which is often harvested for its beautiful shells. Its eggs are also harvested for food. This has caused a drastic and worrisome reduction in their numbers. Another very familiar example is the blue whale. The blue whale is the currently the largest living mammal on the earth. Their population has greatly reduced, no thanks to excess hunting for commercial purposes.
In Nigeria, there are no good record keeping or inventory of aquatic species there are, so it is difficult to track the extinct species. However, most crocodile species in Africa which includes Nigeria are on the IUCN list as endangered. For example, the African slender-snouted and the dwarf crocodiles that are mainly found in West Africa are endangered. There are a number of amphibian species that are peculiar to Nigeria and very few other Western African countries and may be endangered. For example, the African egg frog can only be found in Nigeria and Cameroon and is also on the list of endangered species. We need to also keep in mind that there are some terrestrial species that solely depend on water resources for their existence. These include birds that feed strictly on fish etc. If serious measures are not taken, many of these endangered species will become extinct.
PDC: The Lake Chad in the North East of Nigeria is gradually drying up, can this be attributed to climate change alone and what can be done to salvage the situation?
KAY: The Lake Chad in the North Eastern part of the country is drying up very fast. It is reputable for being one of the largest lakes in Africa serving as source of water supply for thousands of people. However, it has reduced in volume by 90% since the 1960s according to a BBC report. One strong reason for this has been climate change but in addition, population growth and the use of the water for irrigation purposes. There need to be urgent measures and engineering interventions to get the Lake Chad water volume up again. There have been a number of suggestions like constructing canals from other water bodies to the Chad river basin to feed the Lake. The Lake should also be protected and the Government should make conscious effort to ensure that restricted use of the Lake is complied with.
PDC: Water has provided sources of livelihoods for many people ranging from artisans to scientists, as said, over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity. Marine wildlife has sustained human civilisation and development for millennia and with the abundance of threats, what are the efforts that needs to be put in place so that it can be available to serve future generation?
KAY: First of all, people have to see water as a scarce resource and know that our continued existence on earth is largely dependent on water. Educational and awareness campaigns cannot be over-emphasized in ensuring sustainable use of water and its resource. Government agencies in charge of marine or water resources should be functional and effective in carrying out their duties. In Nigeria, there are sound laws and policies that promote sustainability but the laws need to be enforced.
PDC: Having seen, two continents, Africa and North America, kindly compare and contrast the care for wildlife?
KAY: Having seen or lived in two continents; Africa and North America, wildlife care is totally different. The citizenry in North America is well informed of wildlife care. There are conscious efforts to take care of wildlife. For example, on major highways, there are signs to indicate where wildlife are concentrated and could be crossing the roads, so motorists have to drive with care. Wildlife is strongly encouraged at primary education level where students take summer activities identifying and learning about nature. Periodical surveys of wildlife is very important in North America to know the population status of wildlife (plants and animals). For example, last week Isle Royale National Park in the US air-lifted about four Canadian wolves from Canada and dropped them in the Park just to control the population of moose. The moose have been overgrazing and could soon have no more food to eat, hence will die. But the wolves will keep the populations of the moose balanced and sustainable. They also check for incidence of invasive species and have strict measures to mitigate invasive species scenarios. There have been aggressive campaigns of embracing the circular-economy i.e sustainable use of resources. It is illegal to shoot game or just fish in North America except during the time of the year when controlled game hunting of fishing is allowed. Wildlife is seen as public property in North America, so indiscriminate killing of wildlife is seen as destruction of Government property and it attracts huge penalties. There are huge fines for Industries that pollute the waterways and laws protecting wildlife are strictly adhered to in North America.
In Africa, this is not usually the case. In Africa, there are always issues of indiscriminate fishing or hunting of wildlife for food and other derived resource like fur, leather, tusks etc. There are no strict laws guiding protection of wildlife except in countries like Kenya and Tanzania which make huge income from eco or wildlife tourism. Many African populations are also not aware of the need to keep wildlife and cannot see a connection between the continued existence of humans and wildlife. Law enforcement is weak in Africa compared to North America so sustainability is hard to achieve.
PDC: What are the steps that can be taken by the Public Sector like Ministry of Water Resources, Water Corporations alongside the Private Sector like Boat Clubs and the Academia to educate Nigerians about the waters?
KAY: I think it is important that environmental awareness and education needs to be incorporated into the educational curriculum from primary to secondary school system in Nigeria. Ministries that are concerned with water and water resources needs to be deliberate in funding campaigns that increase the awareness of people about the dangers of not taking care of the water ways. Boat clubs can be encouraged as one of the extracurricular activities in schools where students can become members and be ambassadors for change with taking care of the waters around. Documentaries that are based on intensive research should be made public so that people can learn from the documentaries. Riverine or water-based communities should also be carried along with Government policies on water resources and incorporate their traditional ideas into ensuring sustainability. The communities must be made to be stakeholders in ensuring sustainable use of the water resources around them. These are steps the Government should make to ensure large and equal participation in efforts to ensure our water ways are safe. The Government should also encourage participation of the Academia by funding more research, giving grants to researchers to have a better understanding of our water resources. National parks should be properly funded and mandated to do periodical surveys of water resources and wildlife.