He stands tall and majestic. He’s six years old and matured, lives in a world of its own, not troubled but protected by Park Rangers in Okomu National Park biosphere in Edo state.
This male antelope has no name but I gave him a name, a baptism of sort, done without water and fanfare, just a naming ceremony, from a heart, full of love and compassion to a voiceless being, freed from merciless hunters and poachers.
He bears henceforth, Meke 3, yes, Meke 3, and goes into history as sharing a surname with me. There are many of his likes, threatened daily in our forests, many not lucky to escape human scrounge and cruelty.
Unknown to many people, Nigerians in particular, our forests ecosystems are sadly threatened, with the floras and fauna resources endangered.
The very sad case of our forest beings will bring tears our generally simplic population, 200 million people, whose cultural and traditional beliefs drives the extinction of our wildlife resources.
A drive through our major highways ,inter City and village connectivity routes, reveals the massive growing markets and shoplets, where all manner of Bush meats, Antelopes, monkeys, snakes, crocodiles, gorillas, lions, leopards and even giant forest lizards are on display for sale.
My guy and name sake, the Antelope Meke 3 at Okomu National Park, which is Nigeria’s home to endangered white throated monkeys, lives on today, because government cares, through its conservation agency, National Park service.
I really do not wish to discuss our very dysfunctional national forests management architecture, with almost all the states and local governments green biosphere structures wiped out, leaving only federal government managed protected areas structures overburdened.
From Kaduna to Kebbi, Sokoto to Enugu, all the forests and games reserves, are all yesterday’s story lines, with heavy environmental conservation consequences Stirring us in the face.
Our knowledge of trees and the various medicinal values are gone, same for avian and fauna resources, vegetation’s critical to our future survival cruelly cut down, an unmitigated destruction and invasion of our natural resources ecosystem, which has defined our desertification and erosion challenges.
Certainly and significantly, the federal government deemed it wise to float ecological funds to help both the states and local governments recover lost vast areas from the impact of climate risk factors, but sadly, the funds ends up misappropriated and misapplied, and gave vent to all manner of unavoidable natural disasters. Does the recent massive flooding make meanings to us?
My friend, Antelope, Meke 3, reminds me and many other Nigerians that we owe it a duty to preserve and protect these forest beings, time audit our forests space.
To possibly test our knowledge and responsibility to protecting these beings from the poaching and burning pots of revellers of Bush meats. I recently posted the pictures of Antelope Meke 3, on my Facebook page and oh dear, my friends, and other respondents, bayed like hungry lions for the poor Antelope.
It was indeed missed feelings for me as a natural resources developmental writer and tourism journalism influencer. The fear for other Antelopes in our forests, unprotected, those found in abandoned states and local governments game reserves , left me worried.
I felt sad for many of our fauna resources that ends up in pots of soups at marriage ceremonies, ritual dedication and atonement engagements to malevolent spirits, family gods and palm wine drinking bars.
It does not matter to us that those cultural and traditional ceremonies leaves us behind in the quest to join the rest of the world to keep and preserve these beings for scientific, educational and recreation purposes, for our generation yet unborn.
Oh yes, Nigerians, may not be vegetarians but to eat up both our forests and marine resources, just to satisfy mere cultural cravings, leaves much to be desired.
A detailed check list of our indigenous fauna resources, tells of a people and nation, far from global reality to animals ( in the wild) protection and preservation.
Our conservation protection legislations are weak, and an open window to encouraging illegal smuggling and poaching our earth resources without let.
Over time, the leadership of National Park service, has put some of these legislations to test, taking hordes of Fulani cattle grazers and herders, poachers and illegal loggers before the courts, and in seconds, many were left off the hook due to very timid legal entrapment.
Most natural resources protection and preservation law breakers, comes to court, fully aware that the courts will only give an option of fine, most of the process ,not punitive enough to serve as deterrent to the invasion of our forests and the cruel poaching of fauna resources.
The endangered Species , control of international trade and Traffic Act, Animal Diseases Control Act, to criminal code Act, may have drawn attention to the need to criminalize cruel attitudes to animals in captivity, they are however not enough deterrent.
Similarly sections 450, 456 and 495 of the criminal code Act, 1990, and few others related to protection and prohibition of keeping certain species of animals in captivity without license, bears little or no relief to serious efforts to penalize cruelty against animals in the forest or even outside of secured enclosure.
To have Antelope Meke 3, living today, including few others in Nigeria’s protected areas, as strategically sustained by Nigeria Park service, brings some measures of hope and faith in our tomorrow’s conservation economy. What happens to those animals outside this conservation architecture, can best be imagined and we can, help, keep our animal kingdom safe, secured and reverse the risk pictures.
However a serious interrogation and review of the various Acts against cruelty of the silent forest beings must be addressed. It won’t be too much to ask that a certain percentage of ecological funds be allocated to national Park service to protect and preserve both marine and forests species.
The ongoing depletion of our forests covers through illegal logging and even senseless plundering of flora resources by some state forestry racketeering actors, trades goose pimples in the lives few people who frowns at what’s can be described as Nigeria’s Armageddon to nature resources conservation.