By Kehinde Oluwatayo
A Professor of Primate Community Ecology at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), Prof. Babafemi Ogunjemite has called on government at all levels to show commitment to the Conservation Action Plan for the Nigerian -Cameroon chimpanzees that was signed by the government in 2012.
Ogunjemite, made the call at the 92nd inaugural lecture of the institution.
The don who spoke on a lecture titled Monkeys and Apes: Man in its Reminiscence noted that primates are the next set of animals to man saying that they are the mirror with which we observe ourselves in evolutionary history.
While saying chimpanzees are the closest relatives to man among the primates with only 1.24 percent different from man, Ogunjemite said chimpanzees, conservation should take priority anywhere they seen and whatever the number and condition.
His words, “the essence of today’s lecture is to let man know that other creatures of God especially those that are close to us have the right to live. We are creations of God like them and we are not God. The only difference between us is that we can think wide. Take for instance chimpanzee that I mentioned the other time is our closest relatives among the primate.
“The difference between man and chimpanzee is just 1.24 percent and the basic thing is that we are able to speak in an audible speech. They equally speak but not in an audible speech. And this is why we dominate the planet earth and that does not mean we should put them at risk.
“This species is on the verge of local extermination in southwest Nigeria with estimated population of less than 300 individuals. Hunting is seriously driving them on to the brink of extinction across all other ranges in Nigeria and they are the mirror with which we observe ourselves. They are our source, we need to preserve and conserve them”
According to him, the species is listed as critically endangered across its range in Nigeria and Cameroon calling on government to be committed to the plan adding that “our nonchalant attitude to the signed treaties and agreement has always belittled us among committee of nations.”
Speaking in an interviewed shortly after the lecture, Prof Ogunjemite said man has failed to recognise history and anyone who does not know about his history stands the risk of loosing his identity.
He said further that human beings are creatures of God and have the same position as other living creatures hence the need for man to moderate his activities, learn to preserve, conserve them and give them their right to living.
Ogunjemite who opined that “we have wasted too many of them” said all efforts must be made to guide against declining of the populations adding that healthy population of every species of the group should be maintained.
He suggested that primate habitats should be protected for them to live normal life that could guarantee their feeding and reproductive requirements since the home of an animal is critical for feeding and its reproduction.
He also suggested that primate based ecotourism should be encouraged for tourist enjoyment. thereby promoting opportunity to admire and support conservation of the species and other animals living within the forest home.
According to him, it will also enhance the host community of such destination economically.
Ogunjemite who averred that most species of these animals are yet to be identified and classified especially the nocturnal species noted that that there is the need to intensify surveys that will unmask clearly the different species using genetic information and to be able to set conservation priority among them within the region.
He said the possibility of saving Ifon Game Reserve should be pursued because of its strategic location as an ecotone for the forest and savana ecologies of southwest Nigeria.
He said further that the reserve harbours a high number of primate species of rainforest and savana ecosystem of the region.
He is also of the opinion that it will be bought as conservation concession and saved from over exploitation of its timber and NTFPs.
According to him, “the size of the reserve is about 50km² and its isolation makes it a location that could easily be managed for such purpose”.
He however said it is essential that all and sundry develop strong commitment and love for the conservation of all other living resources for the benefit of all.