Nigeria, Cameroon sign wildlife protection pact 

Abuja, Nigeria  — Nigeria and Cameroon on Friday signed a historic partnership designed to protect wildlife, preserve critical habitats and tackle illegal wildlife trade across their borders.

Nigeria’s environment minister, his Cameroonian counterpart and other dignitaries were present at a signing ceremony for the pact, which provides legal support for the joint protection of endangered species, including gorillas and chimpanzees, and shared natural habitats.

Authorities said the countries would share intelligence, conduct research and strengthen law enforcement against offenders.

Jules Doret Ndongo, Cameroon’s minister of forestry and wildlife, said, “The exploitation of forestry resources and poaching, especially cross-border poaching, are serious threats to the sustainable management of our natural resources.”

The partnership will also address illegal hunting and wildlife trafficking.

Nigeria shares a nearly 2,000-kilometer border to the south with Cameroon. The region is home to some of Africa’s most endangered species of apes, chimpanzees, leopards and elephants, all of them threatened by poaching, growing population, mining activities and illegal felling of trees.

Balarbe Abbas Lawal, Nigeria’s environment minister. said that “apart from the global phenomenon of climate change and environmental challenges, social factors include overpopulation, poverty, food insecurity have continued to amass these resources on the brink of extinction. While this is going on, cross-boundary illegality has further aggravated the trend. And we’re coming up with so many other steps to address this, including trying to enforce our legal system to see environmental crime as serious as other crimes. So we need the cooperation of the two countries to achieve this.”

Nigeria is the epicenter of wildlife smuggling in Africa. Pangolin scales and elephant ivory are the most trafficked items.

In February, Nigerian authorities intercepted 200 kilograms of elephant tusks in a southern border town near Cameroon.

Lack of awareness and prosecution of offenders are the reasons the trend has continued.

Apart from the joint partnership, Nigerian lawmakers are also considering a new bill that would protect endangered species and punish wildlife poachers and traffickers. A public hearing for the bill is expected in May.

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