Nigeria Joins Elephant Protection Initiative

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By Udora Orizu in Abuja 
Nigeria has formally joined the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI), a coalition of African countries dedicated to the sustainable conservation of elephants and ending the ivory trade.
The EPI, which held its inaugural consultative group meeting in London during the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT)
conference, had President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, as well as ministerial delegations from several EPI countries, including Nigeria and multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) in attendance.
Nigeria’s Minister of State for the Environment, Ibrahim Usman Jibril, speaking in London at the conference said: “It is our duty to save what we have inherited from our parents and grandparents and our responsibility to protect species that are endangered.
“Nigeria is committed, we will continue to partner with other African countries and the world at large to ensure that the intentions of the EPI are carried out at the highest level,” Jibril said.
John Stephenson of the EPI Secretariat said EPI are delighted to welcome Nigeria as the 19th member state in the EPI.
According to him, “As an African-led initiative, it is important for us to have a true giant of the continent on board. We held warm and productive talks with the Nigerian delegation in London, and we look forward to working with the Nigerian government on ways of shutting down internal ivory markets, and developing a National Elephant Action Plan (NEAP).”
Stephenson lamented that Africa’s elephant population has fallen dramatically in recent decades, an estimated 55 African elephants are killed every day, mostly by ivory poachers. There are thought to be just over 400,000 elephants surviving in sub-Saharan Africa, compared with 1.3 million in 1979.
He further said Nigeria has only a few hundred surviving elephants, the largest herd is in Yankari National Park with smaller relict populations in the forests of southern Nigeria and the savannah of northern Nigeria, adding that working together with the Nigerian government, they will like to ensure the conservation of Nigeria’s elephants and also prevent the smuggling through Nigeria of ivory largely originating from neighbouring states.