Ecotourism and Biodiversity Conservation in IMO State Zoo, Nigeria
(Pictures: Julius Samuels)
by Ositadinma Evaristus
Julius Samuel is the Supervisor of the Animal section at Imo State Zoological Garden, the only surviving Nature and conservation site in South East Nigeria and a prominent destination for eco-tourism. He holds a B.Sc in Zoology from the University of Maiduguri, Nigeria and specializes in wildlife management and conservation. He also lectures on a part time basis on Forest related issues in some secondary schools and at the Imo state polytechnic.
He forms the backbone on which the zoo is run owning to his rich experience in Wildlife management having previously worked in Sambissa Forest Reserve, Maiduguri, Bornu state, Nigeria.
HOW IS BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION EXPRESSED IN YOUR WORK?
Biodiversity conservation is all about the ethical use and protection of Wildlife and Forest resources, that is both flora and fauna. It focuses on maintaining the natural biomes in order to protect the Forest and the resources therein such as herbs, fuelwood, wildlife. In Imo state, the idea of biodiversity is not new as both government and the citizens are trying in no little way to conserve nature. In the state you will still find conserved areas where plants and animals are protected like the Imo state zoological gardens. Other states of the federation are not left behind in biodiversity conservation, a visit to wildlife parks, game Reserve and nature sanctuaries will surely convince you of the efforts various states are putting but there is still room for improvement especially in the area of urban forestry, agroforestry and inevitably wildlife management.
IS THE NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT DOING ENOUGH IN PROTECTING FOREST RESOURCES WITHIN ITS TERRITORY?
The Nigerian government has tried in their own way, for example, it has given administrative robustness to natural reserves, game parks and Forest research institutes by way of removing some bureaucracy involved in the day to day running of their affairs. It has also increased funding for Forestry based institutions but more work needs to be done especially in the area of developing a national blueprint for setting up and managing ecotourism sites. This is because forest resources provide the building blocks for many goods and services which are needed in our day-to-day living. Protecting forests and forest resources is an important task for all of us. I think poor funding to Forestry sector and dearth in man power availability is not helping matters. This is peculiar given the number of Forestry based institutions in the country. However, I see hope on the horizon.
WHAT ARE PEOPLE’S PERCEPTIONS ON ECOTOURISM?
Ecotourism involves travelling to natural areas that have both nature and wildlife resources. People still have love for nature and natural resources. The perception of people on Ecotourism is commendable that is why you always see individuals and groups travelling far and wide for the sake of tourism. Having positive perception towards ecotourism helps in protecting our forest resources. States like Akwa Ibom, Oyo, Ondo, Enugu, Imo etc are breaking boundaries in area of ecotourism patronage. They could be a model for other states.
HAS ECOTOURISM CONTRIBUTED POSITIVELY TO CONSERVATION EFFORTS? Conservation and Ecotourism are two sides of a coin so they work hand in hand. Ecotourism has contributed positively in conservation efforts because it makes peoples come very close to nature and as such they are educated on the need to protect nature and its resources. Importantly, conservation is both essential for our existence and intrinsically valuable in our own right.
WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL EFFORTS TO SAFEGUARD BIODIVERSITY?
Personally, I educate schools at various level from primary to tertiary on biodiversity conservation. Families, religious groups and individuals are not left behind. I believe that taking into account also other groups will in no small way help in protecting nature and wildlife resources.
For more information about Julius Samuels kindly send an E-mail to Sirj2j(a)gmail.com.
For more questions, comments and contribution please contact the author, Ositadinma Evaristus, evarsergio(a)gmail.com