JUNE 28, 2019
It is with urgent importance that the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) wishes to draw the attention of the Government of Rivers State and the general public to the killing of a Manatee (also known as Sea cow) in the Omoku Creek, a tributary of the Orashi River. This act is condemnable and should be punishable under the law. It would be recalled that CEHRD reported in September 2015 a similar incidence that occurred in Odieke-Igbiiduya still on the Orashi River. Manatee is a marine animal found in coastal waters and rivers (National geographic 2015). Manatee comprises of three species Trichechus Senegalensis (West African Manatee), Trichechus Manatus (West Indian Manatee), Trichechus Inunguis (Amazonian Manatee). The West African Manatee are recognised to be endemic in some West African countries: Mali, Senegal etc, and importantly in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region, Lake Kainji and the Benue River.
A reliable local volunteer reported the killing of the manatee in Omoku Creek yesterday (27 June 2019) and posted the pictures in this press release to CEHRD.
According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN) red list, manatee has been consistently classified as threatened and vulnerable to extinction for the past seven years (IUCN 2018). Thus, in Nigeria, manatee is prohibited from hunting, capture or trade by decree No 11 (now Act) of April 20, 1985. However, community persons are hunting and butchering Manatee for meat due to ignorance and lack of enforcement of laws and regulations protecting critical biodiversity resources in Nigeria. There has been increasing recent reports of discharge of chemical substances and oil related pollution in the Orashi River and its tributaries. It is importantly to mention that Increasing pollution in the Orashi River may have forced the victim manatee to migrate to the Omoku Creek.
CEHRD uses this medium to urge relevant Federal, State and Local Governments and Environmental Agencies to strategically employ stringent and speedy measures to end oil pollution and stop community persons from hunting manatee and using it as meat.
Co-management mechanisms should be adopted to achieve the above stated protection. This should involve holistic engagement and local community participation. The importance of creating Biodiversity Protected Areas cannot be over-emphasized, especially in the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria, which is rich in rare biodiversity and recognised as a key zone for conservation in the Gulf of Guinea.
Particularly, conserving the habitat of manatee in the Orashi region and associated biodiversity sanctuaries would also benefit sea turtle that nests in the sand dunes of the same locality. It would be recalled that in 2007 Hippopotamus was reportedly sighted in Odieke-Igbuduya and CEHRD issued a statement on 5 December 2007 calling for the protection of the hippo and manatee in the community. CEHRD will continue to sensitize the public on the need to conserve and protect the already fragile and overstretched environment as it is the only foundation of human existence on earth.
For interview requests:
Please contact Dr. Kabari Sam, Head of Environment and Conservation Unit to speak on the above issue or any issue on Environment and Conservation.
Dr. Kabari Sam