Between 1970 and today, over 60% of the world’s wildlife population has been wiped out, a staggering 4000+ species posited by the World Wildlife Fund. This is primarily because of anthropogenic reasons like hunting, poaching, desertification, under-management of parks and illegal wildlife trade. No doubt, other factors like pollution, climate change and population growth, among others have contributed to this great decline too.
Nigeria, in particular, has continued to pose more wildlife threat to her species in the eye of her weak government policies. With a growing population, Nigerians will consistently hunger for, and hunt wildlife amidst the rapid depletion of these resources. In addition, illegal wildlife trade on the local scene and more prominently on the international scene is adversely affecting wildlife conservation in a country like Nigeria. Shall we rather fold arms and watch the wild grow into emptiness and loss the associated benefits of having rich biodiversity? Perhaps, animal science through animal breeding and husbandry can come to our rescue and meet demands for ‘the pot’, not necessarily for the ivory market.
From Animal Breeding and Genetics to Animal Nutrition, Animal Husbandry to Animal Health, the very rich science of understanding animals should be extended beyond domestic animals and properly utilized under a favourable condition such that it can help in tackling global wildlife crisis. Establishment of breeding programs and the introduction of rich available diets for species like Duiker, Antelopes, Gazelles, Buffalos and some other game meats animal may be surprisingly very effective to balance the continuous demands for wildlife, the declining population and the growing extinction.
Rather than being stuck with the only option of buying slaughtered roadside game meat displayed by the roadside which might be harbouring some diseases and parasites, such breeding program will provide substitutes for game meat and promote sustainable game hunting. Buyers will also prefer to get live and healthy ones from reliable sources free from diseases and parasites, yet at a reasonable amount.
This will not only meet the growing demand for game meat but also serve as a source of income or revenue. Some of these species will be selected for rehabilitation and release program to government-protected areas due to their population status, which would lead to growth in the population of those selected species and also indirectly increases the population of predating animal like the Big Cats.
For some endangered wildlife species involved in this breeding and release programs, animal science helps out by coming up with complete diets from their natural feed ingredients according to their nutritional requirements that can help these animals to utilize and maximize the nutritional content present in the feed ingredients for better muscle and body growth. For example, Elephants are known to be pseudo-ruminant animals unlike other ruminant animals such as Buffaloes.
While Elephants can’t digest and utilize most forest forages properly due to the lack of ability to digest high fibre content, special diets can be formulated for them containing processed forms from their natural feed ingredients. Upon necessary health checks and validation, this formulated diet can be introduced to the wild for animals to feed on. Through research activities and breeding programs, Animal scientists working hand-in-hand with Wildlife conservationists will not only help in solving wildlife crisis but also create a new source of revenue, reduce food insecurity and also create sources of gainful employment.
The world needs diversity and interrelationships for sustainable development in all aspect of life – wildlife management inclusive.
Written by Joshua Aribasoye (firstname.lastname@example.org, +2348148969495, @joshwildlife) and ‘Seyifunmi Adebote (email@example.com, +2348130979064, @adebotes)