The authorities could do more to preserve the natural ecosystem and its wildlife

The reported invasion of some homes in Gbagada community in Lagos by monkeys is an ugly sign of man’s activities that have deprived the primates of their natural habitat. Like all living things, starvation must have compelled them to seek food, unmindful of the resulting conflict with humans. But it is important for both the authorities and the Gbagada residents to handle the issue with care.

Common in Nigeria and other African countries between Ghana and Cameroon, these ‘invaders’ are called Mona Monkeys and are usually found in groups of about 12, with a single mature male, but larger aggregations also occur. The troop moves through the canopy foraging mainly for fruit, but also eating flowers, seeds and insects and other invertebrates.

The Mona monkey is an adaptable species. That they ended up in a residential area is because their natural forest habitat has been encroached upon. These Mona Monkeys have been in the wild in the area that stretches from Gbagada through Bariga to Akoka, behind the University of Lagos for a long time. This stretch is water catchment area, known in environmental cycles as Wetlands, a very fertile place for all types of foods and the adjoining land is good for growing crops all year round. But because their population does not seem to be declining significantly, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has assessed the status of these monkeys as being of “least concern”.

Ordinarily, Mona monkeys move around in areas hitherto uninhabited by man. However, in recent years, there has been an upsurge in human activities that is upsetting the livelihood of these monkeys and that accounts for the Gbagada challenge. The authorities should therefore emulate the Nigerian Conservation Foundation and African Wildlife Foundation to develop community conservation reserves that not only set aside habitat and protect wildlife from poachers, but also provide jobs for the locals to protect those areas and create opportunities for enterprises that can bring in additional money, such as from tourism.

Monkeys are social animals, meaning they exist as families, in the wild, with the old taking care of the young. They forage for food in their natural habitat but this space is shrinking daily with new housing development and because of other human activities. The truth is that these monkeys are becoming homeless and must find food elsewhere. Monkeys, like other wildlife, are an important part of our ecosystem which, unfortunately, is changing drastically due to human activities like natural resource exploration, agriculture, and industrial developments such as construction of pipelines, housing and roads. Yet, when the land can no longer support wildlife, it leads to the displacement of wildlife or worse, extinction.

These Mona Monkeys are in dire need of help, because they are now exposed to man’s predatory instincts. Some would naturally be eaten by humans who consider them delicacies called ‘bush meat’ and others would want to use them as pets or objects of entertainment for easy money. Whichever way, these animals will suffer untold cruelty if the government does nothing to protect them. To do this, ecological conservationists have recommended that the Lagos State government and the Federal Ministry of Environment should collaborate to create a conservatory in the Gbagada-Bariga-Akoka axis to preserve the natural ecosystem and its wildlife.

Ecological conservationists believe that humans, instead of the wildlife, should be relocated because the ecosystem cannot be relocated and besides, that a food chain exists in the area and this should not be broken because of its importance to human existence. Also, it is important to educate and sensitise the communities where these monkeys are found of the need to protect them as is done in other climes.