By Supo Balogun, The Nigerian Expression (TNE)
The General Overseer, Worldwide, of the Pentecostal mega church, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, was once named by Newsweek Magazine as one of the 50 most influential persons in the world.
For the clergyman who leads a congregation spread across 196 countries as at March 2017, it is not surprising that he was nominated into this eminent club.
The surprise, however, may be that apart from preaching the gospel, Adeboye is a passionate supporter of wild life preservation.
Between 2012 and 2015, he had personally doled out N45 million to give the University of Ibadan Zoological Garden a facelift, in addition to donation of some lions.
The university teacher turned cleric falls in line with the growing number of eminent Nigerians who are deploying their personal resources into saving the world’s wildlife from extinction.
Only last week, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, adopted one of the three new born lion cubs inside his presidential library in Abeokuta.
Christening the cub as Aremu, his middle name, Obasanjo said that the adoption would attract a million naira donation for the animal’s upkeep.
The former president, who rallied support for the concept of adoption, said the initiative is aimed at recruiting individual and corporate partners who will support the park within the presidential library with financial resources for preservation and care of animals that are on the brink of extinction.
A don simply identified as Prof. Afolabi was said to have also adopted another cub, christening it “ Ade ’’ and pledging one million naira for its upkeep.
Indeed, the former president had cause to be apprehensive as the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library Wildlife Park is said to be home to no fewer than 140 indigenous and exotic animals.
If the OOPL Wildlife Park was set up to promote wildlife conservation, educate the public, promote tourism and support research, the spectre across the globe offers no comfort to its promoters in the uneven contest between animals and its greatest predator—man.
Man in his insatiable selfishness, destroys other lower animals and the forests, but bringing untold hardship to himself in form of effects of climate change. The earth is now revolting against him in the form of depletion of the Ozone Layer, flooding and desertification.
The ecosystem is also being disrupted, with choice animals and forests going into extinction, while oceans and lakes are drying up.
As a new study recently revealed, the world is experiencing a “biological annihilation” of its animal species because of humans’ effect on the earth.
Researchers had also mapped 27,600 species of birds, amphibians, mammals and reptiles — nearly half of known terrestrial vertebrate species — and concluded that the planet’s sixth mass extinction even was much worse than previously thought.
The study discovered that the number of individual animals that once lived alongside humans had now fallen by as much as 50 per cent, according to a paper in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study’s authors, Rodolfo Dirzo and Paul Ehrlich from the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, and Gerardo Ceballos, of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said this amounted to “a massive erosion of the greatest biological diversity in the history of the Earth.’’
Even more frightening, the international Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, stated that 36 percent of the 47,677 species it assessed are threatened with extinction.
This, according to it, represents 21 percent of mammals, 30 percent of amphibians, 12 percent of birds, 28 percent of reptiles, 37 percent of freshwater fishes, 70 percent of plants, and 35 percent of invertebrates.
To stem the tide of extinction in the country, however, President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016, assented to the Endangered Species Control of International Trade and Traffic Amendment Act 2016, earlier passed by the National Assembly.
This is against the background that Nigeria is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international treaty drawn up in 1973 to protect wildlife against over-exploitation.
The Convention also seeks to prevent international trade from threatening species with extinction.
Ita Enang, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), who shed light on the Act, said it had brought the penalty provision in line with the current economic realities.
“The intent of this amendment is to bring the penalty provisions in line with economic realities and to serve as a deterrent to people trafficking in endangered species because endangered species are the preserves of the country,’’ he had said.
Some states such as Ogun are already taking a cue with the move to impose stiffer sanctions on poachers who hunt for “bushmeat.’’
At a recent public hearing on an executive bill on Forestry and Wildlife Preservation, stakeholders in the state expressed concern at the negative effects of poaching and deforestation.
Dr Onoja Joseph, the Director of the Nigeria Conservation Foundation, decried the encroachment of forest reserves on the ecosystem and the national economy.
He described the bill as an important legislative instrument to check illegal exploitation of forest reserves and animals considered as endangered species.
If many cannot fathom the hullabaloo over what they consider as a valuable culinary item in their local delicacy, sensitisation efforts must be stepped up on the critical value of biodiversity to man’s very existence.
The treatise by Dr Gabriel Dedeke of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, using vultures as a case study, offers an interesting perspective on the value of wildlife in balancing the eco-system.
“They (vultures) are culturally significant; vultures eat dead bodies in Parsi community in India. Vultures are sentinels of poaching activities.
“They are key component of healthy ecosystem; they are nature’s garbage disposers, they keep environment clean and free of contagious diseases.
“Their extremely corrosive stomach acid allows them to consume rotting animal corpses. Vultures consume 70% carrion in Africa.
“Vultures play an extremely important ecological role in most terrestrial ecosystems.
“They keep the environment free of carcasses, waste (including human excrement), thereby restricting the spread of diseases (such as Anthrax and botulism) and pests such as rats.
“Hence their decline as a significant scavenger can lead to associated changes within their environment,’’ he stated. So also are other animals and forests which Mother Nature has bestowed on Man. Ironically Man is destroying these ‘caregivers’.
Now is time for Man to desist forthwith and toe the line of the likes of Adeboye and Obasanjo. However, increased awareness is necessary for change to happen.