Conservationists condemn killing of manatee in Nigeria

Villagers in Sapele, Delta State, killed an African manatee, cut it into pieces and shared it meat among the locals

Biodiversity conservationists have condemned the recent killing of a manatee in Delta State, South-south of Nigeria.

Manatee, otherwise known as the sea cow, is a marine mammal. They are considered to be among the world’s endangered species

Some villagers reportedly caught the manatee in Sapele about a week ago, butchered the animal, and shared its pieces among themselves.

A Twitter user, by name Amama Benedict (@BennyCapricorn), posted on the social media site photos of the manatee when it was caught and after it was cut in pieces.

He told PREMIUM TIMES that he posted the photos to attract interests from people and probably ignite a debate on why it was wrong to kill the animal.

“They should have sent it to an institute for research purposes or a zoo,” Mr. Benedict wrote on Twitter.

Edem Eniang, a biodiversity conservationist in Nigeria, described the killing of the manatee as a big loss and a shame to Nigeria.

Mr. Eniang, who is a senior lecturer and a specialist in Wildlife Resources Management ‏at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, said he was aware of the incident and that he has notified other interested experts around the world.

“It is not only in Sapele; in Lagos State alone, three manatees have been killed since December, last year, to this January,” he told PREMIUM TIMES on Monday.

“There is also a story of a stranded whale in Ondo State. A young whale got stranded by a seashore. While it was still alive, Nigerians only found it necessary to stand on top of it to take selfies and posted it online.

“They started butchering the whale when it was still breathing.

“And the most painful components, aside from the killing of the manatee and the whale, if you read people’s commentary online, you will find out, very sadly, that 70 per cent or more of the Nigerian population are stark illiterate as far as conservation is concerned,” Mr. Eniang said.

Mr. Eniang appealed to the Nigerian media to help enlighten the people on the importance of conservation.

Clement Ebin, a former General Manager of the Cross River National Park and the President of the Biodiversity Preservation Centre, BPC, Nigeria, said the Sapele incident was a “sad development” for Nigeria.

Mr. Ebin, who is an advocate of the protection of Nigeria’s rainforest, said that the killing of the manatee speaks volumes of the people’s attitude towards the rainforest.

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“Nigeria has been very callous about the way they handle the rainforest. The rainforest is a species endemic ecosystem; most of the species that are getting extinct in the world are found in the rainforest. But we are here cutting down timber recklessly, burning the forest, poisoning streams with chemicals and destroying just everything that is living,” he said.

Manatees, he said, are harmless animals.

“Anything you do unsustainably does not last. If you have money today, no matter the billions you have, and stack them somewhere and all you do is continue to spend millions every day, a time comes when that source would run dry.

“We want the manatee population to build back so that even the manatee eater will have what to eat today and tomorrow,” Mr. Ebin said.

African manatee is said to exist in 21 countries, and is believed to be the most heavily hunted, although no one knows how many are killed annually.

Nigeria is mentioned among the countries where the hunting of manatee is reported to be worst in Africa.

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