Our EPI Friend of the Month is Nigeria’s Elizabeth Ehi-Ebewele, the Head of Wildlife and CITES Management, in the Department of Forestry in the Ministry of the Environment. Elizabeth played a crucial role in securing Nigeria’s membership of the EPI late last year.
Was nature conservation part of your childhood? Or something you learnt about in your education?
I have always loved nature. When I was a child, l loved to spend time in the garden with my late grand-mum. My MSc thesis looked at threats to wildlife in Old Oyo National Park, and my PhD was on the impact on wildlife of environmental degradation in the Niger Delta, where there are oil spills and gas flaring.
You have a senior position in the Ministry of the Environment. Do you see yourself primarily as conservationist or a civil servant? Or perhaps a mixture of the two?
I am a conservationist to the core. I am passionate about conservation and I worked in the wild when I was starting out as a young Wildlife Officer. I’ve worked in Gashaka Gumti and Yankari, and have visited all 7 of Nigeria’s National Parks.
Nigerians have so many competing concerns- schools, hospitals, transport, security etc How do you convince your compatriots to also make wildlife conservation a national priority?
I managed to convince the Honourable Minister of the Environment to sign up Nigeria as an EPI member. I will not stop till all ivory markets are closed down in Nigeria.
Yes, we’re delighted that Nigeria joined the EPI…what impact do you hope this will have on elephant conservation?
We are creating awareness and sensitization about elephants. Hence none of the elephants that recently crossed over from the Benin Republic were killed. In Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi State, where we have our highest concentration of elephants, we haven’t seen an elephant carcass for three years.
Nigeria’s elephants are now scattered in small populations, and there’s great pressure on land and natural resources. Do you ever feel pessimistic about their future?
No, I’m very optimistic. We are trying to conserve some of the pockets of forest as Game Reserves, such as Omon Shasha Sanctuary in Ondo State. What Nigeria needs is more awareness and sensitization, especially at the community level. We need community participation in wildlife conservation.