A wildlife expert in Nigeria, Edem Eniang, has renewed the call on Nigeria to find an alternative to bushmeat consumption for the sake of biodiversity conservation in the country.
A professor of herpetology at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Mr Eniang, made the call in a video posted on YouTube early January. The video was posted by Biodiversity Preservation Center, Uyo.
Mr Eniang, in the video, is seen cuddling four baby mongooses to sleep in his arms.
Mongooses are small carnivorous animals that are found mainly in Africa.
According to the Nationalgeographic.com, they “live in burrows and are nondiscriminatory predators, feeding on small animals such as rodents, birds, reptiles, frogs, insects, and worms. Some species supplement their diet with fruits, nuts, and seeds.
“Creative hunters, they are known to break open bird eggs by throwing them with their forepaws toward a solid object.
“Famously, some species of mongoose will boldly attack venomous snakes such as cobras,” the site stated.
“People think they are harmful, mongooses can be very friendly, they easily adapt to humans. If you don’t hurt them they would not be wild,” Mr Eniang said in the video as he stroked their furs.
“Just cuddling them like this has made them feel like sleeping, they feel comfortable and safe on my body.
“We need to preach more and the people need to be given alternative to bush meat.
“We can’t continue a life of killing every living animal. These little animals are so useful, they help us in controlling snakes in the environment,” he said.
Mr Eniang occasionally took his eyes off the camera to look at the sleeping mongoose and to also speak to them.
“I love them, I just love these guys. Look at how comfortable they are on my body, they really need their mother, they should be with her but now she is dead. They have eaten it.
“Guys, I am here for you and for sure you’ll survive. You’ll survive, in spite of everything,” he said to the little animals.
“Your brothers in the wild will survive because I will never stop to preach about your survival. I’ll never stop preaching about all the problem that faces this category of species – the bush burning, the indiscriminate cattle grazing, the falling of all manner of trees, habitat destruction, killing them for bush meat and even for pet trade.
“Just a few minutes on my body, they are all going to sleep. This is to show us they need the warmth of their parents. But somebody killed their mom, somebody ate it. They are just waiting for these ones to grow; they will eat them also.
“Sorry my guys, I love you guys. With me, you will be warmed because I have chosen with a deep passion to be the father of wildlife. Wherever you are, I will advocate for you. I will speak and I will save you guys and your habitat for generations yet to come.”
Mr Eniang appealed to Nigerians to come together to save the habitat.
“Please, Nigerians, let’s save some habitat for these species. Let us save adequate space for our wildlife, they are not harmful. If you don’t hurt many of them, they will never hurt you. We infiltrate their habitat, we clear every little bush without thinking about these animals.
“We need to recreate their own space. Let us make provisions for them so that we live in harmony with nature.”
Bushmeat trade has been acknowledged as a major threat to some animal species, globally.
The trade slowed down during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa but appears to have picked up once more after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the region Ebola-free in January 2016.
Mr Eniang, from Akwa Ibom, has spent more than 24 years in field biological research.
The West African zebra gecko, otherwise known as Hemidactylus eniangii, is named in his honour for being the first person to collect the rare species of gecko 14 years ago.
Mr Eniang has spent decades campaigning against bushmeat consumption and trade in Africa.
In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES in 2016, Mr Eniang said hunger remained a major challenge to biodiversity conservation in Nigeria and Africa.
“There’s so much hunger in the land, there’s so much challenge for survival. So, nobody will listen to you except you give them an alternative. We need to build that into the conservation plan,” he had said.