Our November Friend of the Month is a key partner in Nigeria- Andy Dunn, Country Director for WCS.
You’re an Englishman who has lived much of his life in Nigeria, working in conservation. So where is home? That's a hard question to answer. Although I live in Nigeria, my two precious daughters now live in the UK, and so I generally consider England to be my home. But I have spent more than half my life in Africa, and after a few weeks in England I tend to miss Nigeria. I am proud to be called a Nigerian.
You must have travelled all over Nigeria. What do you rate as its greatest natural treasures? Its people! But my favourite sites are Yankari Game Reserve, Gashaka Gumti National Park and the Obudu Plateau.
Do you feel young Nigerians are more open to the conservation message than, say, 20 years ago? Definitely. There has been a dramatic shift in opinion in Nigeria over the past 10 years and people are now more supportive of conservation and of the environment, although poverty levels remain high and joblessness is a major problem. This shift has been driven by young people who are active in the fight against climate change and plastic pollution. Seeing their commitment makes me excited for the future.
Nigeria’s elephants are reduced to a few hundred. Is it realistic to think they can be conserved? I think it is abhorrent to consider Nigeria without elephants. I’m convinced that if we strengthen the management and funding of sites such as Yankari Game Reserve and Cross River National Park, then elephants can be saved in Nigeria. We have seen elephants return to Kebbi State from Benin recently, and instead of being killed they were welcomed by local communities. We need a plan to identify priority activities to save elephants and I am looking forward to working with the Ministry of Environment and the EPI to draft a National Elephant Action Plan for Nigeria.
Ending the bushmeat trade or ending the ivory trade: which do you consider to be of more critical importance? Ending the ivory trade is the priority; both the domestic ivory trade and the trade in ivory originating from other countries such as Cameroon, Congo and Gabon, for which Nigeria has unfortunately become a regional hub. Bushmeat remains very popular in Nigeria but mostly consists of small species such as porcupines and grasscutters. So ending the bushmeat trade would be both unpopular and impractical, but we do need to enforce laws that prohibit trade in endangered species such as primates and pangolins.