Illegal Wildlife Trade Estimated Over $7bn Annually, Says Report

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By Ugo Aliogo

The illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth between $7 billion and $23 billion annually a survey report conducted by globeScan has revealed.

The report found out that 71% of participants had consumed bushmeat at some point in their lives, and 45% had consumed it in 2020.

It further explained that COVID-19 was of concern to 27% of consumer who said they stopped buying bushmeat, in a country that was previously impacted by Ebola outbreak.

According to the survey, “While bushmeat is an important part of rural food security, rapid urbanisation has caused a soaring urban demand for bushmeat, despite widely available and affordable alternative protein sources. More than 50% who had consumed bushmeat within the last year cited taste as the main reason, while 30% said it was part of their culture, and 25% said that it is healthier and fresher than regular meat and fish.”

The survey also remarked that between 2016 and 2019, over half of the pangolin scales seized globally came from Nigeria, adding that wildlife species have declined dramatically over the past 50years.

The report revealed that 98% of those surveyed said there were ready alternatives in form of fish, chicken and other farmed meats.

“Nearly 70% of those surveyed said wildlife should be protected and 59% believe wildlife is important for their national heritage,” the survey said.

The survey hinted that public knowledge of existing wildlife legislation that prohibits hunting and trade of endangered species is low, pointing out that only 31% correctly identified that only some species are legal to buy/eat. Almost nine out of 10 (88%) said that some or all bushmeat should be legal.

Commenting on the survey report, the Chief Executive Officer, Wildlife Aid, Peter Knight, said Nigeria could lead the region in a new approach that recognises the incredible risks of wildlife trade with improved enforcement and greater public awareness.

He also stated that rather than an ever-growing list of endangered species that are prohibited from commercial trade, government could communicate a very short list of “safe” game species, such as grasscutter.

He stated that later in the year, wildlife would launch a public awareness campaign in major cities across Nigeria to change consumer behaviour, while noting that it would also collaborate with government agencies to improve enforcement and communication of wildlife existing laws.

Reacting to the report, the Director, Department of Forestry, Federal Ministry of Environment, Rasak Adekola, said WildAid’s campaign against bushmeat consumption is a commendable initiative that would not only assist in ensuring that wild animals are left in the wild, but also help in the control, and keeping zoonotic diseases at bay.

He added that the outcome of the survey is quite revealing and would definitely form the basis for government step-up action against bushmeat consumption.