FG steps up fight against illegal wildlife trade as CITES officials visit FRIN

FRIN’s Dr Adepoju with CITES officials.

Illegal wildlife trade is a global menace affecting the sustainability of the environment and the survival of mankind.  However, the authorities in Nigeria, specifically, the Ministry of Environment has stepped up to the challenge of stopping the practice and saving endangered and threatened flora and fauna with visit of CITES officials to the country at the instance of the ministry.

CITES stands for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora(CITES) is an international agreement between governments to which Nigeria is signatory to.

On June 1, representatives of CITES from the secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, paid a visit to the Forestry Research Institute in Ibadan, led by the Environment Minister of State, Ibrahim Usman Jibril.

The minister explained the purpose of the visit of CITES officials. He noted that a lot of plant and animal species in Nigeria were at risk of extinction due to illegal wildlife trade. “We invited them because we are signatory to the convention. We are concerned about the level of exploitation of our wildlife, that is why we invited them to come and see what we are doing, advise us, and also give us technical support if and when necessary. Being an international organisation, they are in a better position to canvas for funds anywhere and support countries that are in need. It is an important mission. They have come here to see the effort that we are making, and to be able to advise us.”

Jibril added that FRIN established 64 years ago “has gotten to a maturity stage; it has to develop species of wildlife that can be sustainable. With research, they have been able to reduce the gestation period of oil palm to four years. This is what FRIN is doing with other species of trees that are hard to grow and are being attacked. If we don’t do research into new fields, they (the species) run the risk of getting into extinction. That will not be good for the country or the coming generation.”

The CITES team comprisingJuan Carlos Vasquez, Chief, Legal Affairs and Compliance, and Pia Jonsson, Enforcement Support Officer, said CITES would be collaborating with National Environmental Standards Regulatory and Enforcement Agency (NESREA)and Nigeria Customs Service to combat illegal wildlife trade.

Vasquez told Nigerian Tribune that, “We are focusing on rosewood, pangolins and ivory from African elephants. We are looking at what efforts Nigeria is making at the ports and at the science/laboratory level.” He said the report from the Nigeria visit and subsequent action would be expedited at the CITES secretariat.

The FRIN executive director, Dr AdesholaAdepoju spoke on the significance of his institute to CITES. “FRIN is the scientific authority of CITES in Nigeria. What being the scientific authority means is that we are the ones who will tell whether a particular tree species should be banned from exportation if it is classified as endangered. Endangered means it has been exploited to the point that it is almost extinct, and we are saying that for the sake of the future generation, the ones left must be preserved.

“We have to write to the minister to state the position of each of these tree species in the wild. But that can only be done after a thorough examination has been done.

“CITES purpose of coming here is to see the strength of the institute to do the scientific job which is the most important leg of all scientists’ activity to guarantee the sustainable management of whatever is being traded with from a natural forest of any country.

He noted that the CITES officials “were impressed with the little we have been doing, but they also acknowledged that we need support to be able to do the national survey to be able to know if these trees are there in the quantity expected to trade with and whether there is any other position that we want the authorities to take.”

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