By G9ija

United States based international wildlife conservation non-profit, WildAid, has said it is working with Nigerian Conservation Foundation to tackle widespread demand for bush meat in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Calabar.

It said in a statement that the bush meat campaign aimed to reduce urban demand for bush meat, especially species protected by wildlife legislation, and improve inter-agency collaboration to enforce existing wildlife laws.

The campaign, it added, would engage popular celebrities in Nollywood, music, business and football as well as local conservationists to produce communication materials such as public service announcements, mini-documentaries, posters, social media content and billboard messages to shift behaviour around bush meat consumption.

It said it would also work with government agencies across various sectors to improve enforcement and communication of existing wildlife legislations.

Africa Programme Manager, WildAid, Tara Kilachand, said, “A new survey commissioned by US has shown that many Nigerians were concerned about the impacts their consumption was having on wild animals, and were very much open to change.

“We are thrilled to partner with NCF in order to effectively communicate to the public what is no longer just a conservation problem with few consequences, but a national concern that can have outside impacts on cultures, economies and the environment.”

While bush meat was an important part of rural food security, the statement said, rapid urbanisation had caused a soaring urban demand for bush meat, despite widely available and affordable alternative protein sources.

This growing appetite also threatened wildlife populations in Nigeria and increased the risk of zoonotic disease transmission, it stated.

The statement said key species such as the Cross River gorilla, West African lion, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee as well as the leopard, elephant and pangolin face sustained threats to their survival due to human-induced pressures, including poaching for the bush meat trade, wildlife trafficking and traditional medicine.

It stated that massive tracts of wild habitat were also being lost to bush burning, illegal logging, agricultural encroachment and infrastructure development such as road construction.

The Director-General, NCF, Dr MuhtariAminu-Kano, said, “NCF is excited to work with WildAid on the campaign to reduce bush meat consumption in Nigeria.

“Through this project, other issues such as illegal wildlife trade, poaching and over-exploitation of forest will be dealt with in the long run.”