Federal Government Enlists Finima Nature Park as Ramsar site

Monday, 10 February 2020 11:21

 

 

 

 

The Minister of State for the Environment, Chief Sharon Ikeazor, announced that Finima Nature Park will be known globally as a Ramsar Site of International importance.

 

The Minister who was represented by Mr. Sikiru Oladele Tiamiyu, Director of Forestry, Federal Ministry of Environment made this known as Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) in collaboration with Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) commemorated the 2020 World Wetlands Day (WWD) in Bonny Island, River State on Monday, 3rd February, 2020.

 

She said, “I am deeply honoured to inform you that the Honourable Minister of Environment has endorsed the instrument for designation of Finima Nature Park as Ramsar Site of International Importance.”

 

This endorsement will make Finima Nature Park the 12th Ramsar Site in Nigeria and 3rd in the Niger Delta.

 

This year’s theme “Wetlands and Biodiversity”, was used to highlight the need to protect wetlands and biodiversity they inhabit. Estimates show that biodiversity is declining globally, with wetlands disappearing three times faster than forests. Consequently, this year underlines the need to protect wetlands biodiversity and urgently address its loss.

 

In her welcome address, Mrs. Eyono Fatai-Williams, General Manager, External Relations & Sustainable Development, NLNG explains that the company earnestly identifies with the global aspiration to promote a healthy ecosystem where humans and other living things can co-exist with our operations. This sinks into the vision of NCF of ‘where people prosper while living in harmony with nature.’

 

She stated further that Finima Nature Park, 1000 hectares in size was established in 1999 as a good representation of the Niger Delta ecology, for conservation, recreational activities, research and study purposes.

 

She said, “Beyond being home to numerous wildlife species including dwarf crocodiles, troops of the Mona Monkey, African Fish Eagles and African Grey parrots, to mention a few; the Nature Park is part of company’s  contribution to national and global conservation goals in line with Rio Agenda 21, Ramsar Convention, and Convention on Biological Diversity”

 

In his speech, Chief Ede Dafinone, Chairman, NCF National Executive Council, revealed that Nigeria’s wetlands are important to the wellbeing of the people and the environment. They provide critical safeguards from natural disasters including droughts and floods, in addition to providing a home to an array of biodiversity. It provides an opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of wetlands, and how the decline of wetlands and biodiversity can be addressed. Nigeria has numerous wetlands, including the Niger Delta, which is Africa’s largest wetland. These wetlands are important for water supply, agriculture and recreation and other ecosystem services. However, in recent times, these wetlands have come under intense pressure due to human activities. 

 

In his speech, Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, Director General of NCF, said that NCF is commemorating WWD at many centres by creating awareness among the community people, school pupils and other stakeholders. 

 

He added that the government and the people are not attaching much importance to wetlands again and we are fast losing them to unsustainable developments in the form of housing and infrastructure. This is revealed in the way they sand fill wetlands areas. He said, “Instead of us leaving wetlands to perform its ecological, economic and hydrological functions, we are channelling, canalising and damming all the available wetlands around”. He reiterated that wetlands are not waste lands but wealth lands.

 

Meanwhile, in his speech, Mr. Goke Korede, Manager of Operations, NLNG, stated that Industry records show that our operations have helped reduce the nation’s flare status from 65% when we started operations in 1999 to less than 20% today. This is a huge contribution towards ensuring a healthy environment in the Niger Delta region, the nation and world at large. Today, the Finima Nature Park stands not only as a natural habitat to some of the exceptional flora and fauna that are endemic only to Bonny Island; but also as an ecotourism hotspot with over 23,000 visitors to the park in 2019.

The commemoration continued with a tour of the park being led by the Project Manager of the Park, Mr. Gogo Brown, accompanied by other tour guides to give nature interpretation as they journey along. 

 

A huge whale bone was sighted and other animal species being conserved. The event ended with tree planting exercise within the park. The species planted was Cleistopholis patens, commonly called salt and oil tree. 

 

 

Finima Nature Park (FNP) is a 1000 hectares swamp forest area managed on behalf of NLNG by Nigerian Conservation Foundation in the last one decade. In 2019, NCF profiled the Nature Park towards State and international recognition- as the only Rivers State Natural Conservation Environment and International Wetlands of Education Centre by Wetlands Link International respectively. 

 

Also in attendance were Chief (Mrs.) Cordelia Agboti, NCF Council Member; Dr. Joseph Onoja, NCF Director of Technical Programmes; Mr. Solomon Adefolu, FNP Project Coordinator; Mr. Ogheneochuko Odibo, Special Assistant to the Minister of State; Mrs. Sikeade Egbuwalo, CBD National Focal Point; Professor Sodienye Abere, Brand Ambassador of Finima Nature Park; Mrs. Eucharia Ezeani, General Manager, Human Resources, NLNG; Mr. Gbenga Oluwaniyi, General Manager, Finance; Comrade Jude Ozenua, PENGASSAN Chairman, NLNG Chapter among others.

 

 

 

 

NCF Promotes Conservation through Traditional Institutions

Monday, 03 February 2020 12:27

The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) has called on traditional leaders to use their revered institutions in charting a path for the protection and restoration of the nation’s environment.  NCF made this call at the 18th Chief S.L. Edu Memorial Lecture with the theme “The role of Traditional Leaders in Protecting and Restoring the Nigerian Environment” which took place on Thursday, 16th January 2020 at Bankers House, Victoria Island, Lagos. The Lecture was in collaboration with the family of Chief S.L. Edu and supported by Chevron Nigeria Limited. 

 

The Guest Lecturer, His Eminence, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto said that the human society should take care of the environment with every sense of responsibility as a caregiver because the environment has left its pristine state. He said “Desert encroachment is occurring at 600 meters per annum and the figures are rising daily. This has resulted in land losses and dwindling food production [at a time] when the population is growing” 

The Sultan of Sokoto declared that leaders of traditional societies are the major stakeholders in environmental preservation and their leadership is considered critical and indispensable to the whole system. He reiterated that the failure to manage the environment has led us into the present environmental disaster.

 

The Chairman of the occasion and the President, Board of Trustees, NCF, Izoma Philip Asiodu, in his opening remark, reminded that “At independence, Nigeria had 35% forest cover. Today, we have 4%. 

 

The Special Guest of Honour, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Governor of Lagos State who was represented by his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat stressed the need to have a paradigm shift in our approach to treating the environment. He said “We must decide, as a people, how we want to live our lives. But, it is the intention of this government to lead the conversation. We must decide to leave a society better than we met it for the good of our children. If not, we have done a total disservice to them.” 

 

The Chief Host, Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, the Director General of NCF, in his welcome address explained that NCF sets the tone for the year by organizing the lecture that explores issues of urgent importance and new area that should get attention on conservation in Nigeria.

 

Mr. Esimaje Brikinn, General Manager, Public Government and Policy Affairs, Chevron Nigeria Limited in his speech said the topic for this year’s lecture - was apt as it speaks to traditional leaders as active agents of behavioural change/ sustainable development and advocates of multi-stakeholder partnerships in support of the environment. “This is particularly critical and coming at a time when climate change has become of great concern to our environment and our existence. Chevron Nigeria Limited is glad to be associated with NCF’s enduring vision on nature and environmental protection”, he added, while noting Chevron’s 20-year partnership with NCF which has produced commendable projects geared towards conserving the environment and building Nigeria’s economy.

 

The event was also used to award research grants to two Ph.D. students who were selected out of 53 applicants. They are Elizabeth Shade Fadipe who is a Conservation Biologist from the University of Jos, and Mustapha Sani Bunza, studying conservation and biodiversity in the University of Ibadan. The award was presented by the Guest Lecturer.

 

In attendance were HRM, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, the Ooni of Ife, who was represented by HRH, Oba Olalekan Fasesin, the Aladeokin of Oriade-Ife; HRH, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, the Alake of Egbaland; HRH, Oba Saheed Elegushi, the Elegushi of Ikateland; HRH, Oba Shefiu Olatunji Adewale, the Olu of Epe, Alhaji Ajagbemokeferi, the Chief Imam of Oriwu Central Mosque, Ikorodu and other traditional leaders. 

 

Also in attendance were Alhaji Ahmed Joda, member NCF BoT; Mrs. Yetunde Emanuel, member, NCF BoT; Chief Ede Dafinone, Chairman, National Executive Council, NCF; Mr. Desmond Majekodunmi, Chairman LUFASI Park; HRH, Erelu Abiola Dosunmu, Mrs. Olivette Smith who represented the US Consulate General; Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun, Vice-Chancellor of Lagos State University, represented by Mr. Abiodun Denloye; NCF council members; representatives of Access Bank Nigeria Plc; Heritage Bank Ltd; Enville Environmental Consultants Ltd; Ecobank of Nigeria Ltd; Ampak Nigeria Ltd; Xtylenspec Ltd; Krestonouc Ltd; Lagos State Ministry of Environment and Water Resources; Lekki Estates Residents and Stakeholders Association (LERSA); Imo State Zoological Garden, Imo State; Women in Nature Conservation Organisation; Vulnerable Women Liberation Empowerment Organisation; lecturers and students of tertiary institutions.

 

NCF Vanguards Conservation of Vulture Species in Africa

Wednesday, 29 January 2020 10:00

 

 

 

Introduction

Globally, the population of vultures have suffered a serious decline with some species recording about 95% decline. This decline has been blamed on various factors including direct persecution, poisoning, death from diclofenac biomagnification, use of vulture parts for traditional medicines, etc.

In Africa, where we have about 11 species of vultures, they have also suffered the same fate of decline. It has been shown that the 6 out of the 11 species of vulture in Africa are at the brink of extinction (BirdLife 2015). According to BirdLife, this decline has tremendous impact on human health and the economy.

 

In Nigeria, the vulture populations have witnessed marked declines both in protected and unprotected areas. Protected areas that are supposed to be haven for these species have also witnessed this disturbing trend. A study (Tende & Uttosson 2008) showed that most of the vultures in Yankari Game Reserve have all declined. Of the five vulture species recorded in the Reserve in the early 80s only 2 species existed with very few individuals. In 2013, a follow-up study (Onoja et al 2013) was conducted in and around Yankari Game Reserve with similar result of the rate of decline. The marked decline of the Hooded Vulture population was thought to be imperceptible because of its cosmopolitan nature; however, it took just 5 years for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to raise the conservation status of this species from Least Concern to Critically Endangered. This is because the Hooded Vulture declined more than 95% of its population. The major cause of decline in Nigeria was thought to be for traditional medicine (Ogada and Buij 2011; Saidu and Buij, 2013) and this led to some preliminary market surveys. Other causes of decline are: 

 

-Poisoning in abattoirs for onward sale in the wildlife market

-Extraction of eggs from nests

-Habitat degradation from indiscriminate logging thereby reducing nest sites for vultures

-Poor perception of vultures as harbinger of ill-will leading to direct persecution by locals 

Worried about this deleterious trend on the population of these Vultures, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) took deliberate steps to reverse the trend in Nigeria while joining the BirdLife Partnership across the globe to curb the global decline.

 

The Advocacy Plan

In 2015, NCF developed the Vulture Advocacy Plan as tool to implement deliberate activities toward vulture conservation. This plan was shared with the BirdLife African Secretariat and with funding from the Leventis Foundation was used to implement ‘Vulture Decline in West Africa: Breaking the trend through Stakeholders’ engagement in Nigeria’ between 2017 and 2018 to carry out activities that will serve as a solid foundation towards the conservation of vultures in Nigeria.

 

Stakeholders’ engagement in Nigeria

This project as the pioneering effort to engage stakeholders within the wildlife trade value-chain in Nigeria provided the required foundational knowledge for NCF to understand some of the most critical issues around the socio-economic value chain driving illegal wildlife trade in Nigeria with belief-based use (traditional medicine) as chief driver. 

NCF visited about 17 wildlife markets across Ogun, Osun, and Ondo States in southwest Nigeria and engaged over 3,000 stakeholders (actors and non-actors) across State governments Ministries Department and Agencies; Law Enforcement Agency;  Transportation Union; Traditional Healers Association; Research and Tertiary Institutions; media, and the general public. Many of these stakeholders do not have historical knowledge about the African Vulture crisis. More so, stakeholders’ awareness rate of the health and economic role and importance of vulture is significantly low put at 5-7% as majority find vulture species as fearful, dangerous, and not good to be associated with let alone having to recognize the role the species play within the society. 

 

The market assessment reveals that vulture parts have local and international trade route with major hubs in Ibadan and Kano (in Nigeria), Cameroon, Niger Republic, and Burkina Faso that feeds the rest of the wildlife markets in southwest Nigeria. A life vulture is worth US$85-140 while a dead vulture is worth US$40-60 depending on location and availability. The demand for African vulture and its part is very high which is largely driven by belief-base use. The project also showed that Interborder Agencies and other law enforcement agencies also lack the knowledge required to combat vulture trade and largely wildlife crime in Nigeria.

 

The project created some level of conscionable action among the targeted stakeholders and the public through 15 dialogue sessions; 3 stakeholders’ workshops; 1 audio jingle and 1 video documentary aired on 5 radio and 5 TV media houses; and 10 print media appearances to drive the Save Vulture Campaign at the end of the project. This campaign reached an estimated 1,000,000 people in Nigeria via all platform of communication including digital media. 

While this project remains a pioneering effort in tackling illegal wildlife trade in Nigeria, a much more holistic intervention that will address knowledge gap among the public on the socio-economic and ecological role of vulture in the society is required. Strengthening capacity and awareness of law enforcement agencies should also be a priority while domestication of existing laws and policies such as the CITES Endangered Species Act 2016 across sub-national governments is key.

 

EU LIFE Egyptian Vulture Project

This project sought to increase the conservation of the only migratory vulture species between Europe and Africa – Egyptian Vulture. This fits nicely into the overall advocacy plan of NCF and serves as a continuation of the previous project on Stakeholders’ engagement. The project funded by the EU under the EU LIFE project is being implemented by 18 members across the flyways (Breeding grounds, stop oversites and the wintering grounds). 

The main objective of the Project is to reduce adult mortality through persecution for traditional medicine and to increase awareness and support for the conservation of Egyptian Vultures and other vulture species.

 

So far, a total of 10 wildlife markets were visited across Kano and Sokoto States as well as Veterinary Practitioners to evaluate the magnitude of damages to Egyptian Vultures due to poisoning (intentional or unintentional) with investigations on agricultural chemical use, veterinary medical product use, and poison for control of carnivores’ population.

The market survey revealed that prices of vulture vary from N5,000 to N40,000 depending if it is alive or dead and the location of the market. The uses of vulture parts include: Ritual rites for cure of evil attack; Hunted for domestic food and good protein supplement; Vulture egg is also used for Money making rituals, and Ritual rite for the cure for Madness. It was further gathered that vultures are sourced from different countries around Nigeria - Niger Republic, Burkina Faso and Chad. It also gathered that licensed and unlicensed veterinary drugs are used by farmers for different purposes which may eventually end of affecting vulture species. 

Apart from gathering data on socio-economic, NCF is reviewing national legislation on pesticides and dangerous drugs affecting vulture in Nigeria. This is to identify areas for provision for changes that will help protect vulture. 

 

NCF has driven a national advocacy for the conservation of Egyptian Vulture among which include A Mile for Egyptian Vulture- a Bicycle event that witnessed more than 500 cyclers/participants commuting across a distance approximately 1 mile to create awareness about the species in 2019. Following up with the advocacy event is the celebration of International Vulture Awareness Day which attracted over 1,000 people across 5 Nigerian States- Lagos, Enugu, Oyo, Yobe, and Kano which host wildlife market hubs and hotspots for Vulture in Nigeria. NCF also erected a Save Egyptian Vulture Outdoor billboard in Abuja that has generated great attention from over 2,000,000 passer-by and users of Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja.   

 

USFWS Grant on Combatting the West African Illegal Trade in Threatened Vultures and their parts for Belief-based Use

Following up on the projects implemented on vulture in Nigeria, a major gap that continues to be highlighted is the illegal trade in wildlife in Nigeria. Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) is a menace in global conservation efforts and the West African Sub-region, Nigerian is known as a hotspot for exporting of illegally sourced wildlife products. Armed with this information and the projects NCF has implemented on vultures, USFWS granted funds to NCF and its International Partner – BirdLife African Secretariat to combat illegal trade in Vultures and other species of wildlife. 

 

The main goal of the project is to reduce by 20% the illegal trade of vulture parts from highly threatened African vultures by 2021 in wildlife markets in Nigeria through strengthened law enforcement and identification of alternative tradable products. This will be done through the improvement of capacity of Special Criminal Investigation Agencies to monitor, investigate and prosecute illegal wildlife trade-related crimes; Implementation of the African-Eurasian Multi-species Action Plan (Vulture MsAP) and the African Common Strategy on Illegal Wildlife Trade in Nigeria; and to enhance public awareness at the national and regional level on the social, economic and ecological impacts of the illegal trade in birds and wildlife.

So far, further markets surveys were conducted in 11 wildlife markets across the targeted three Nigerian States -Kano, Ogun, and Oyo where it was reported that vultures are sourced from Cameroun, Burkina Faso, Chad and Benin Republic; Jigawa, Yobe, Rivers, Enugu, Taraba States etc. 

 

NCF engaged Trado Healers and Hunters Association on seeking alternatives to vulture parts which looks promising as there are discussions with the end-users to use this more available alternatives. To have a coordinated effort at combatting IWT, NCF organized an inception meeting for stakeholders to discuss the way forward. In attendance were members of the diplomatic corps – US Consulate and UK High Commission; others were Enforcement and Border Control Agencies (Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Custom Services, Nigeria Immigration Service), National Park Services, CITES Management Authority, Hunters Association, Nigerian Celebrities, Nigerian Electronic and Print Media, National Environmental Standard Regulatory and Enforcement Agency and others, selected across the 3 Nigerian State.

 

The main output of the project so far which has a lifespan up to 2020 December are:

-Improved understanding of the perceptions and attitudes of consumers, traditional healers and traders of wildlife products to better inform awareness raising and behavioural change activities. 

-Alternatives to vulture parts identified by traditional healers to be used in their healing practices. 

-The major outcome of the WMBD celebration includes an increase in awareness of over 500 participants promoted/increased on the importance of migratory birds in the promotion of ecotourism and the importance of vultures in the limitation of the spread of infection and diseases. 

-Five Nigerian celebrities’ willingness has been secured to become Special Vulture Ambassador 

-One video and One radio documentary produced to further sensitize the public on vulture crisis

-Over 30,000 community people have been enlightened through awareness activities such as Short walk, beach clean-up campaign and celebration World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD).

-Vulture Conservation and protection incorporated into the West African Strategy on Combatting Wildlife Crime

 

 

Conclusion

The conservation of Vulture species in Nigeria and Africa is a priority for all because of their importance in the ecosystem and NCF will not rest on it oars until every bird species especially vultures are protected from harm and illegal trade.