Well, I guess the year is far gone for ‘Welcome to 2019’ But whatever season you are in, I welcome you to a new phase of life. Life is only what we make of it. we may have many plans but ultimately, it is the things we work on that will bear fruits. So don’t be busy, be productive. sure the steam will run out in a few weeks or months time, but it is up to you to refuel your fire and keep the passion to achieve burning.

In January when I started writing this post, I wrote this paragraph to cover February 2019 elections in Nigeria: “We are entering a quintessential time in the history of Nigeria as we fall upon yet another ‘June 12th’ moment. Will democracy yield the best result for us as Nigerians? Will the vast Majority rally around a candidate that holds the most promise to cause a change in our current story? Everyone is asking, who do we vote? Will our votes count? In all these, I want to say, let’s seek peace above all else. Don’t lose your head or relationships because of political inclinations. Let’s be of one mind on what we want and nothing will be impossible for us. Shun ethnic and religious bias in your decision process and vote according to your beliefs and conscience. Let’s agree to disagree.”

That aside, we are in March. and on March 3rd, the International Wildlife Day, we addressed a very important issue in our history as human beings. Below is an article I wrote for my Connect Nigeria travel column:

International Wildlife Day

One beautiful part of tourism is taking time out from our world to have a peek at Nature. We long to see animals in their habitat and how they interact. It reminds us of how special the world is.

That is why on March 3rd 1973, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) took a stand on issues relating to protecting endangered species worldwide. They made their plans tangible on the 20th of December 2013 when March 3rd was declared as the International Wildlife Day. The aim was to raise awareness of the world’s animals and plants.

March 3rd was the day of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered species (CITES) of Fauna and Flora before it became International Wildlife Day. It was the set aside in 1973 to make sure international trade does not threaten the survival of wildlife.

Since 2013, UNGA has given March 3rd themes to direct the focus of the celebration of wildlife. In 2015, the focus was on crimes against wildlife; 2016, it was the future of elephants in our hands. While in 2017, the focus was on enlisting the youths in the cause by encouraging them to take responsibility for environmental and wildlife conservation. Last year, the focus was on saving predatory big cats – like lion, leopards, tigers,  – which have become endangered worldwide.

This year, the focus is on Marine life. The theme for the International Wildlife Day 2019 is Life below water: for people and planet. Our coastal areas and its biodiversity have provided humanity with livelihood over the years, contributing to GDPs and enriching lives. There is so much our marine life can offer us. However, marine life is being threatened by humans. Threats range from bleaching of coral reefs and plastic/metals/faecal coliforms/industrial waste pollution to deforestation, urbanisation, poaching, etc.

In Nigeria, rather than be enthralled by or revere marine life, the appeal for the exotic has put many sea creatures on the menu. Also, the fear of the unknown has led to the death of many unique species. E.g. The West African Manatee killed in 2016 at Badagry by people lacking in knowledge on aquatic biodiversity. It’s only crime was being an unidentifiable sea creature. But that isn’t the only case. In 2014, there was a report of Nigerians killing an unidentified sea creature (which looked like a white Humpback whale) found at Eleko beach in Lagos state for food.

Other sea creatures that have been killed on Nigerians shores include a Dolphin, Stingray, Shark, Turtles and Tortoises, etc. Humpback Whales were killed In Ilaje and Ese-Odo, Ondo State and In Brass, Bayelsa For Food in July last year. In January this year, the video of an endangered species, Leatherback Turtle, found at Okpoama Beach in Bayelsa was posted on social media showing its maltreatment while being taunted with a cutlass. This poor attitude towards marine creatures is exactly why we need to get as many Nigerians educated on how to conserve marine life and the environment.

With tourism activities, such as deep sea diving and snorkelling, becoming a thing these days and beach cleanup by tour companies as a voluntourism, there is a growing awareness of protecting Marine life. Just last month, Doyinsola Ogunye, a lawyer and conservationist, rescued a pregnant Leatherback turtle at Elegushi beach, Ikate, Lagos from desperate area boys looking to make quick money from it or mince meal of it.

Hopefully, the celebration of the 2019 International Wildlife Day will help to create an increased awareness on the need to protect the biodiversity of marine life in Nigeria and come up with sustainable development plans for marine species. You can get involved by learning about different species of marine life, the challenges they face and how to help them. Then share what you’ve learned on social media using the following hashtags: #LifeBelowWater, #WWD2019, #MarineSpecies #DoOneThingToday #SDG14. Let us help to make Nigeria a safe haven for the numerous Wildlife within our Borders. Let us help to make Nigeria a safe haven for the numerous Wildlife within our Borders.

This is a conversation that goes beyond a single day in a year. Our Zoos are lacking in variety of animals while we eat all kinds of animals as bush meat. This is a trend that must stop. If we are not helping to prevent their extinction by ensuring their numbers increase, then we should not be eating them. My heart broke as I read reports of Nigerians eating harmless creatures that balance our ecosystem. isn’t it enough that their lives are under threat from global warming and all manners of pollution? It is a shame to have a Ministry for Environment or Minister of state for environment and yet have no documentation or statistics on the range of wildlife within our borders both on land and in the sea? We need to have aquatic museums where our children can visit and glimpse the life of animals under the sea and safe water activities and sports that help us Nigerians to have a healthy interaction with the creatures of the deep.

We need to do better as a people. The world is changing, let’s not become footprints in the sands washed away by the tides of time.

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