Oji River Local Government Works to Protect Primates

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Bennett Oghifo

The Oji River Local Government has passed a new law, the “Primate Rights Bill,” effective November 1, 2019 that extends protection to primates found in the communities of Akpugoeze and Inyi in the LGA.

The local government took action in response to a need for greater awareness about the ecological and cultural values of the primate species found in the region and also to the global biodiversity crisis, said a statement by officials of the Legislative Chambers, Oji River LGA.

The statement said, “In a report released in May 2019, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES, which is an independent intergovernmental body comprising more than 130 governments; www.ipbes.net) announced that nature is declining globally at rates unmatched in human history. In addition, the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the planet now likely.

The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is the most comprehensive ever completed. Compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries over the past 3 years, with inputs from another 310 contributing authors, the report assesses changes over the past 5 decades. Findings in the report show that about 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history.”

Primates are notably vulnerable to hunting pressure and habitat loss and degradation – and thus vulnerable to extinction. According to the IUCN Red List (www.iucnredlist.org), of the 450 species of primate in the world, 269 are threatened (meaning that they are classified as Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable). This means that 60% of all primates are at risk – an alarming statistic.

To draw attention to the plight of primates, the Oji River government has initially focused on the Akpugoeze and Inyi communities given that these communities have, to some degree, long protected certain monkey species due to cultural and traditional beliefs. For example, Akpugoeze harbors the Endangered Sclater’s monkey (Cercopithecus sclateri), a species endemic to southeastern Nigeria. Due to long-standing cultural beliefs, Sclater’s monkey is not killed or harmed by most people from the three communities comprising Akpugoeze (Akpugoeze Autonomous Community, Akpugoeze-Ugwu Autonomous Community, and Akpugoeze-Agbada Autonomous Community). However, some still hunt and kill monkeys in Akpugoeze.

The Primate Rights Bill institutes protection for all primate species in Akpugoeze and Inyi communities and includes punishments for offenders.