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Expert Laments FG’s Neglect Of Wildlife Ecotourism


 A Professor of Wildlife  Resources Management, Herpetology and International Environmental Management consultant, University of Uyo,
Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Professor Edem A. Eniang, has lamented the gross neglect of wildlife based ecotourism sector in the country.    He said despite being the third richest country in terms of primate species diversity in Africa, Nigeria has yet to harness the enormous potentials inherent in the ecotourism subsector.
Eniang, who stated this at a media briefing to mark his golden jubilee in his office regretted that while countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and Congo DRC were earning billions of dollars in foreign exchange from mountain gorillas based eco-tourism alone, Nigeria with its very rare and critically endangered species of gorilla globally recognized as Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) which is a distinct subspecies of Western Lowland gorilla and endemic to Nigeria /south western Cameroon were being generally hunted for food as bush meat.
Enaing said, “Nigeria is losing billions of dollars for not making conscious efforts to develop the wildlife based eco-tourism subsector. Let’s take Uganda for instance, where an average of one thousand dollars is paid per person on the average to view mountain gorillas for just an hour and they have at least one thousand visitors per viewing season who come to view gorillas alone, yet other people also go to see other wildlife species and the landscape. The same tourists will lodge in the hotels, pay for local/international flights, car hire, local guides, buy souvenirs, eat food etc, just check out economically speaking, what that would do to their economy.
“But Nigeria has a unique species of gorilla, the most northerly population of gorillas on planet earth and the least known in the world that is, the Cross River gorilla found in four localities of Cross River state namely; Afi mountain wildlife sanctuary, Mbe mountain, Okwangwo sector of Cross River national Park and Obudu escarpment near the Obudu Cattle Ranch/Resort though down at the moment.
“So what conscious effort has the relevant governments/agencies made at the moment to generate eco-tourism traffic the country based on this critically endangered great ape?  We must appreciate the fact that this all important species of Ape has been given to us as heritage, rather people are shooting them and destroying their habitats instead of conserving them to generate much needed revenue as done in some parts of East and central Africa.”
The neglect of the sector, the professor said has scared away potential investors adding that a Japanese Primate Research Organization had invested in many countries of Africa such as Uganda, Congo DRC and Rwanda for up to 60years in gorillas and Chimpanzees shunning Nigeria and indeed West Africa with rarer species of those great apes.
He called on both the Federal and State Governments and relevant agencies to take urgent positive steps and take stock of all the globally important wildlife species and draw a Nigeria eco-tourism map that shows direction and pinpoint the localities of all the site of eco-tourism potentials as well as how to access them.
He also called for the establishment of Marine Protected Areas and a Niger Delta Protected Area to serve not only as tourist sites but also for employment, climatic amelioration, balance of ecosystem services and safeguard of our biodiversity.
The Professor also called on the Akwa Ibom State Government to take advantage of preponderance of numerous endemic wildlife species found in the state and establish either a Biosphere or Game reserve to boost Wildlife Conservation and Eco-tourism in the state.
He promised to offer his technical know-how in the running of such Reserves /Protected Areas as he has offered such to other countries in the past.
“Akwa Ibom state has the best Sclater’s Monkey viewing opportunity for species in the whole of West Africa and this was attested by the Chief Conservation Officer, Global Wildlife Conservation, USA when he visited Itam monkey project in Itu LGA.  The Monkeys in the Itam project site in Itu are endemic and government should join Itam people to promote the species and make out the best from the project for the economic benefit of our people,” he said

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