As the world recognises May 22 as a day for preservation of biodiversity, which is an in a layman’s terms means, how not to kill animals in the wild. I this has gotten me worried over the question my little girl asked me about seeing a gazelle here in Lagos .
One of the prestigious titles one can’t in Igbo land is “Ogbu Agu” and “Ogbu Enyi” these are titled reserved for the creme de la crème of the Igbo society. It is also a title that is reserved for the heroes. Attaining to this title isn’t easy as you think, it isn’t a walk in a park thing. These titles translate to killer of lion/tiger and killer of elephants. Unfortunately, these titles are no more available not because of lack of interest, but the scarcity of the animals. That’s how far the biodiversity has been distorted in the eastern part of Nigeria. These are the few things that the international day for biodiversity is trying to correct. This is what today , May 22 is all about. Conservation of biodiversity globally.
Across the other ethnic group just near the Igbo has been the ethics and Ibibio… They relish their gorilla. The Efiks have a wonderful biodiversity, environment. Ranging from thick tropical forests to the estuary of the river Cross to the Bakassi peninsula, though forfeited to the Cameroon. Efiks are such a nice set of people in Nigeria, easy going and neat but that’s not all. They relish their bush meat and one of the favourites on the menu is the African Gorillas. Reported by the UN to be almost gone extinct by hunters and poachers from the Nigerian and Cameroon axis. The international conservation body has no other option that to come down hard on the environment around these pristine tropical forests to stop the hunting, trading and eating of Gorillas in Nigeria and Cameroon.
Having stayed in southwestern Nigeria, a region dominated by Yoruba ethnic group and other groups like the ijebus and Eguns who inhabit Lagos axis. I have come to realise that everything called animal is a delicacy in this region. From snakes to pythons to dead whales and dolphins. In some Eastern states there are places that conserve animals culturally . In Anambra state, pythons and Boa constrictors are not liked and they don’t kill the natives. It seems that there are kind of understanding between the natives and these Animal. In the rural Anambra state, you will see where the natives live side by side with these creatures yet no casualties. In a place like Mbaukwu, where the first Nigerian gold medalist Mary Onyali hails from, she is of a royal family of Igwe Onyali of Mbaukwu, they don’t eat tortoise. I noticed that when I had my pre-science days at UNIZIK known as the Nnamdi Azikiwe University. There, the tortoise roams freely and sluggishly. Tempted to eat it, but was warned not to. Same thing in a place called Imerienwe in Imo state, this is a village that forbade the killing if primates such as monkeys and Utangs . Monkeys abound, but don’t touch. I call this native conservation, but my journey to Lagos jolted me. A culture shock, I might say, in Olowo market, called the bush meat market, animals like pythons, monkeys etc. are regulars . This is a delicacy in many parts of the city where some food outlets offer a lot in their menu ranging from boiled snake meat to grilled antelope mean and fried hedgehog meats. Eating bush meat in Lagos can be attributed to status symbol.
As my daughter watches NatGeo channel, she had been disturbing me that she will want to see elephants and lion. This I told her to get used to what is shown in the screen. Seeing elephants in Nigeria today is a rarity and we should forget seeing other animals, that is a luxury . They have been hunted down, either for price, ego or meat. This is the situation in Nigeria today. A walk to most zoos in Nigeria ,will make a conservative minded one cry. Some years ago we saw how they used a live ammunition to kill a lion that escaped from the Zoo in Jos city, Northern Nigeria. Most of the zoos in the country are filled with ostriches and some funny birds like Guinea fowl and trained grass cutter. Nobody sees antelopes, zebra and elephants again. I hope and pray that my nine year old daughter will see a live elephant or a lion in captivity one day. This is what the global body is fighting against. As we celebrate the world biodiversity day, we should be mindful of what is on the menu while we eat. With this little steps, we can At least save the endangered species.
Anthony Emeka Nwosu