FG Probes Video of Threatened W’African Manatee in Delta

Sharon Ikeazor

•State threatens to prosecute culprits

By Iyobosa Uwugiaren and Olawale Ajimotokan

The federal government is to investigate a video that has gone viral showing a Manatee, otherwise known as sea cow, being dragged on the streets in Delta State.

Minister of State for Environment, Mrs. Sharon Ikeazor, in a tweet yesterday in which she said the government would probe the animal abuse, described the incident as a show of shame.

The Delta State Government also condemned the maltreatment of the animal and threatened to prosecute those found culpable.

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) administration has also vowed to clamp down on the illegal sales of endangered wildlife products in a move perceived as a precautionary measure against the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus disease.

According to Wikipedia, Manatees are “large, fully aquatic, mostly herbivorous marine mammals that measure up to 4.0 metres, weigh as much as 590 kilograms and have paddle-like flippers.”

Manatees are occasionally called sea cows, as they are slow plant-eaters, peaceful and similar to cows on land. They often graze on water plants in tropical seas.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), classified Manatees as “Vulnerable” in its Red-list for threatened species and stressed the dire need to preserve, rehabilitate and care for them.

In a treading video, described by many as “distressing’’, ‘’distasteful’’, “disgusting’’ and ‘’horrific,’’ a captured manatee was being dragged on bare ground by some youths yesterday.

Reacting to the maltreatment of the animal, Ikeazor said: “My attention has been drawn to a very distressing and distasteful video of a captured manatee in the Niger Delta region being dragged on bare ground to a cruel fate by some ill-informed/uninformed youth. I strongly condemn this act.

“It is sad that manatees remain one of the most heavily hunted aquatic mammals; the repeated occurrence must be of great concern to us all

“The Ministry of Environment will increase efforts in wildlife conservation and working with relevant national, state agencies and conservationists, especially in coastal regions to protect and conserve endangered marine species and their habitat’’, the minister stated in her twitter handle, @sharon ikeazor.

She added that an awareness campaign must be carried out in the Niger Delta and coastal regions to educate the people to protect the Manatee due to its importance in the nation’s biodiversity and its ecological importance.

“But at the same time, an alternative livelihood must be developed as an incentive to the coastal people to protect and not hunt manatees; we must gather widespread support and develop a specific conservation strategy for manatees in Nigeria.

Delta Condemns Maltreatment of Sea Cow, Threatens to Prosecute Culprits

Also, the Delta State Government has condemned what it described as inhuman act by some youths against the captured Manatee and threatened to prosecute those found culpable.

It said the actions of the youths were an embarrassment to the state against the animal, which it said is among protective sea animals.

In a statement by the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, the state government frowned on the actions of the youths which negates the Bonn Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.

The state government warned that anyone caught hunting protective animals within the state, would be arrested and prosecuted in line with relevant laws of the land.

“Let me re-emphasise that it is against the law for those in the habit of killing animals that are protected by the law.

“Anybody caught killing such animal will be jailed because we cannot continue to watch people destroy our nature out of ignorance

“Rather than kill such animals, people are advised to render help to them to return to their natural habitats where necessary,” it added.

The state government said the Ministry of Information would partner its Environment counterpart and other government agencies to carry out intensive campaigns on the preservation of these endangered protective animals.

Meanwhile, the FCT administration said it would clamp down on the illegal sales of endangered wildlife products in a move perceived as a precautionary measure against the outbreak of novel coronavirus disease.

The threat followed reports indicating an upsurge in the sale of products derived from wildlife within the capital city.

The Acting Secretary of the Agriculture and Rural Development Secretariat, Mr. Ibe Chukwuemeka Prospect, issued the warning at a meeting between him and the stakeholders on wildlife management.

According to him, Nigeria is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) that seeks to protect fauna, flora and wild animals .

He expressed worries at the scale at which these derivatives of wildlife were sold on the streets of Abuja, while also restating the readiness of the administration to end the practice.

Director, Monitoring and Enforcement of Abuja Environment Protection Board, Dr. Hassan Abubakar, also said the populace as well as the perpetrators must be sensitised to desist from illegal sales.