The government of the United States of America has urged all Nigerians to be more conscious of the environment, stating that there is an urgent need to take up the challenge to preserve the country’s forests, stop poaching and halt wildlife trafficking so as to protect the world for the future generations.
In his remarks during his first visit to Calabar, Cross River State, the United States’ ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, stated that the main objective of his trip to the state is to learn more about what the state and the federal governments are doing to protect one of the oldest rainforests in Africa.
Entwistle noted that Cross River’s forests are home to a number of endangered species, including pangolins, forest elephants, Cross River gorillas and drill monkeys, adding that while poaching of these species is against the law, limited enforcement has allowed profiting from ivory, pangolin scales, bush meat, and the live animal trade.
He said that Calabar has been identified as a global biodiversity hotspot teeming with critically endangered species.
The envoy said, ‘’We also plan to explore ways to help your government and NGO partners to further promote conservation and stop the illicit trade in wildlife.
Doing so in collaboration with government officials, park rangers, and NGOs like the Wildlife Conservation Society and Pandrillus will help strengthen the bilateral relationship.’’
‘’Eastern Africa and Southern Africa have often drawn much of the international community’s attention to these issues. Unfortunately, this has meant that West Africa, Nigeria in particular, has become a growing hub for traffickers and poachers who source and pass wildlife products, ivory, animal parts and exotic pets, through Nigeria en route to other destinations around the globe”.
He said the United States recognises the importance and urgency of combating wildlife trafficking and is committed to taking positive measures to address this global challenge.
‘’We have also pledged to enact nearly complete bans on ivory imports and exports, and to take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory.
‘’As part of these efforts, we hope to expand our cooperation in joint training, technical exchanges, information sharing, and public education on promoting conservation, while combating poaching and wildlife trafficking here in Nigeria,’’ he stated.
He added that the problem is not just up to governments to solve as communities also have a key role to play, saying, ‘’They have the ability to stand in the gap where conservation is concerned. You can refuse to do business with these wildlife profiteers and illegal loggers. Communities that respectfully share this forest with wildlife show reverence for nature. They also have a responsibility to protect and defend the wildlife with which they share this forest”.
The envoy further said, ‘’For the past couple of days, I have been reveling in the natural beauty of your marvelous state. I have been learning about Cross River’s rich tourism opportunities, particularly on the eco-tourism side. I just came from northern Cross River, where I visited a drill monkey and chimpanzee rehabilitation facility. I also took a gorgeous walk through a forest reserve at the Drill Ranch and a lovely tour of Cross River National Park.’’
‘’As I learned of the various benefits of Cross River’s eco-tourism, I became more aware of the challenges that the state and federal governments face in protecting these natural wonders. I also became more aware of the nexus of issues that surround the protection of the forests of Cross River. They play an important role in an issue that affects us all – climate change.’’
He also thanked the state government, specifically Governor Benedict Ayade, his team, and Cross River State for their hospitality and continued support.