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Looking back on 2023: Our work in Nigeria

Once abundant in iconic wildlife, Nigeria is now home to fewer than 50 lions, 400 elephants, and 100 Cross River gorillas. As Africa’s most populous country, conservation efforts are challenged by urban expansion, deforestation caused by the encroachment of agriculture, mining and logging, and an increasing demand for bushmeat, the snares for which kill indiscriminately. Porous borders and weak law enforcement have also seen Nigeria become one of Africa’s primary exit points for illegal wildlife products into Asian markets. Yet, the country holds incredible potential to protect the wildlife species that remain, from pangolins to chimpanzees. Our campaigns in Nigeria tackle the illegal wildlife trade head on, making the public aware of the risks to human health in potential zoonotic diseases, the impact on the country’s reputation and ecosystems on which we rely, as well as driving behaviour change through the promotion of alternatives. Through strategic input, we’re supporting the improvement of wildlife laws and their enforcement, while our productions inspire this generation and the next champion a future where people and animals thrive side by side.

Before our arrival in Nigeria in early 2023, wildlife conservation was not a regularly featured topic in the news. Our efforts, combined with those of our partners and followers, have seen a marked increase in the frequency and depth with which wildlife subjects are now discussed in the media. Our partnerships has gone from strength to strength, now including all major TV networks (Nigerian Television Authority, Arise News, Silverbird TV, TVC News, AIT News, Trace TV, StarTimes and Soundcity TV). Our short 30-second public service announcements with popular celebrities in music, sports, business, politics, movies, and religion reach an estimated 10 million viewers weekly. Below is an outline of some of our most exciting work, and biggest wins in Nigeria in 2023.

AMBASSADOR MESSAGES

In October we had the opportunity to film a public service announcement with 2Baba, widely regarded as one of the best African musicians of all time, calling Nigerians to protect gorillas and their wildlife heritage. 2Baba joins a host of influential Nigerian ambassadors including Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, whose PSAs are airing across the country and whose banners are displayed in two of Nigeria’s busiest airports, using their voices to spread important wildlife messages. We’ve also featured Laycon, Vector, Ckay and Emanuella in PSAs to broadcast and for social media, talking about critical conservation issues for the country, from the crisis facing Nigeria’s lions to the plight of pangolins and the challenge of illegal bushmeat. 

2Baba visits the gorillas in Rwanda with Wild Africa

MEDIA PARTNERSHIPS

Our newspaper partnerships with widely-read, influential national dailies (The Guardian, The Punch, The Daily Sun, New Telegraph, Business Day), have generated a large number of in-depth articles and our radio co-productions with YabaTech Radio and RayPower FM continue to reach at least 1 million listeners weekly. We continue to expand our footprint and recently recruited new media partners into the fold, including EnviroNews Nigeria, Women Radio WFM 91.7, Teen Africa TV, Wazobia Max TV, and Western Spring TV

GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIPS

While we were able to assist with the introduction and first reading of new wildlife legislation proposed by the Ministry of Environment, the 2023 general elections slowed down the legislative process. We are now back in touch with the new appointees and the Bill should be introduced shortly with passage hopefully in 2024. The media has already been running coverage on the need for new legislation, including The Guardian Business Day and ThisDay, and will strongly support it once it is introduced.  We’ve been supporting these efforts with our colleagues and friends from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Africa Nature Investors (ANI) Foundation and with support from the U.S. State Department.

Nigeria Takes Historic Step To Combat Wildlife Crime 

In January 2023, the government established the Wildlife Law Enforcement Task Force (WLETF), a centralized enforcement group to address wildlife crime in the country.

On October 16, 2023, Nigeria took a historic step to combat wildlife crime by destroying a total of 3,914.08 kilograms of seized pangolin scales and 110 kilograms of animal skins, marking a significant step towards combating wildlife trafficking and protecting the nation’s biodiversity. We supported the Nigerian government to publicize this event on social media as well as online: Wild Africa, Elephant Protection Initiative, BBC, Reuters, TVC News, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), African Independent Television (AIT), ARISE News, Nigerian Tribune, Vanguard, Leadership, The Punch, Daily Trust, Guardian Nigeria, Peoples Gazette, The Nation, EnviroNews Nigeria, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria

A crush of seized ivory is planned for December 2023, which we are also working to cover in print, online and social media. 

Arrests, Seizures & Prosecutions

Nigerian Customs, supported by increased awareness from our campaigns and pressure from other non-profits, is increasingly making arrests, and we’re seeing many more seizures, and prosecutions than ever before. These are some of the significant ones made in the latter part of the year. 

  • Clearing agent jailed for unlawful dealing in pangolin scales, tusks – June 16, 2023
  • Court jails two men for unlawful possession of elephant tusks – 17 May 2023
  • Wildlife Trafficking: Court Jails Three Vietnamese, One Guinean – Jul 20, 2023
  • Customs arrest ivory, pangolin scales traffickers – Jul 14 2023
  • Customs Arrest 3 Wildlife Traffickers – Jul 13 2023
  • Customs seize donkey genitals at Lagos airport – Aug 18 2023
  • Customs arrest fleeing wildlife smuggling kingpin after two years – Sep 29 
  • Customs intercepts 105 wild birds worth N24m in Badagry – Sep 30 2023
  • Seme Customs Intercepts Live Parrots, Hawk Worth N6m – Sep 27 2023

Together with WD4C, we have advanced a sniffer dog program with Nigeria Customs that will launch in 2024. We started construction on kennels for Customs to be ready before the end of the year.  

UNSUNG HEROES

We showcased the work of a number of Nigerian conservationists through our Unsung Hero series. These included Emmanuel Olabode, working to save elephants in Nigeria’s Omo Forest, Dr Bolaji Dunsin, on a mission to protect Nigerian manatees, Doyinsola Ogunye, turning plastic waste into opportunities, Chinedu Mogbo, founder of Greenfingers Wildlife Conservation Initiative, the Yankari Rangers, committed to protecting their wildlife and community, our very own Dr. Mark Ofua, veterinarian and conservationist turning the tide on bushmeat consumption, the gorilla guardians, protecting the world’s rarest gorillas and Desmond Olumuyiwa Majekodunmi, the founder of LUFASI Nature Park.

DR MARK’S ANIMAL SHOW

Dr Mark’s Animal Show, filmed in Lufasi Nature Park in Lagos, is now broadcast directly via satellite/terrestrial TV service channels across Africa, with Silverbird TV (Nigeria), StarTimes (Nigeria) People’s Weather Channel (South Africa), OneAfricaTV (Namibia), NRTV (Zimbabwe) and DSTV/GOtv. All 11 episodes have been broadcast by TV partners who have also placed the episodes on repeat broadcasts until the end of the year. Showmax, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Wazobia Max TV, Teen Africa TV, AIT News, Arewa 24, Western TV (all in Nigeria) and Flash Radio & TV (Rwanda) are picking up the show early next year. 

CO-PRODUCTION PARTNERSHIPS WITH TV AND RADIO

The ARISE series we co-produce, “Go Wild”, has been reaching millions of people in Nigeria, including key decision makers, and was recently given an award. The TV journalist that works with us on the series, Laila Johnson-Salami, has also received multiple awards. Go Wild is embedded in The Morning Show, ARISE News’ most popular primetime magazine programme which reaches approximately 2 million viewers weekly. 

Dr Mark Ofua, our spokesperson in West Africa alongside other experts, is invited to provide further context during the show.

Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) – Environment Matters (weekly show):
The partnership involves the production of a TV series that will air as a 10-minute segment on Environment Matters, a 30-minute environmental TV program created to provide environmental news to its wide audience. One episode we co-produced on bushmeat is available here

YabaTech Radio 89.3FM – Wildlife Weekly (weekly radio show)
Production for Season 3 began airing on November 20 and will continue well into the first quarter of 2024. Previous episodes can be seen here and here. 

Africa Independent Television (AIT)Environment Today
Providing footage and experts to speak on different environmental issues such as illegal wildlife trade and plastic pollution.

Raypower 100.5 FM – Wildlife Focus (biweekly radio show)
We started a new partnership with Raypower FM, Nigeria’s first private radio station with over 20 stations spread across the country, to co-produce a biweekly radio show on wildlife conservation to its audience of 2.5 million listeners. It premiered at the end of November, watch the teaser here.

Women Radio WFM 91.7 – Women in Conservation (biweekly radio show)
We are partnering with Women Radio WFM 91.7, Nigeria’s only Radio Station for Women & their families, to start a new show in early January 2024 that will shine a spotlight on remarkable female-identifying Africans in conservation/environment. We will use this show to celebrate and reflect on the contributions women and girls have made to history, culture, and society, with respect to environmental conservation, while also navigating the major barriers affecting women in the sector.

Teen Africa TV – Teens and Environment (weekly show)
We have reached an agreement with Teen Africa TV, West Africa’s first 24-hour TV channel for teenagers broadcasting on DSTV and GoTV, to start a weekly show where teenagers will discuss topical issues in conservation. Themes will include the commercial bushmeat trade, illegal wildlife trade, wildlife tourism and African economies, as well as what teenagers can do to protect wildlife.

ENVIRONMENTAL / ANIMAL DAYS CAMPAIGNS

We’ve been running mini campaigns on global animal/environmental days to highlight the threats facing our planet and wildlife, and call people to action. We organized campaigns and produced content on several wildlife species including snakes, lions, elephants, vultures and gorillas. Our billboard campaigns on these days have been seen by 20-30 million people throughout 2023.

WORLD PANGOLIN DAY – FEB. 18, 2023

WORLD ELEPHANT DAY – AUGUST 12, 2023

Alex Iwobi billboard, TVC News, Silverbird TV, The Cable, ThisDay, Daily Sun and New Telegraph

 VULTURE AWARENESS DAY – SEPTEMBER 2, 2023

We hosted an X (formerly Twitter) Spaces’ discussion to address the urgent vulture crisis in West Africa with Nigerian Conservation Foundation and local experts. 255 people tuned in. 

 WORLD GORILLA DAY – SEPTEMBER 24, 2023

Daily Sun, Radio Nigeria, The Punch, New Telegraph, EnviroNews Nigeria, The Cable, Peoples Gazette, Leadership and Vanguard 

PARTNERS 

Government: Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Ministry of Environment, National Park Service, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Federal Department of Forestry, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Lagos State Ministry of Environment.  

TV: Arise News, TVC News, Wazobia Max TV, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Africa Independent Television (AIT), Silverbird TV, Western Spring Television, Teen Africa TV, StarTimes 

Radio: Raypower FM, Yabatech Radio, Soundcity FM, Wazobia Fm, Urban FM, Women Radio WFM 97.1 

Print: The Guardian, The Daily Sun, The Punch, New Telegraph, Business Day, EnviroNews Nigeria 

Billboard: Allianz Media Limited, Optimum Exposures, Outdoors.ng, Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA) 

NGOs: Wildlife Conservation Society, Laycon Cares Foundation, Nigeria Conservation Foundation, Nigeria Inter-religious Council, Lagos Urban Forest Animal Sanctuary Initiative (LUFASI), Saint Marks Animal Rescue Foundation (SMARF), Mental and Environmental Development Initiative for Children (MEDIC), Soc. of Ecological Restoration, University of Lagos.