The work of the wildlife scientist/manager is basically that of producing the highest possible amount of wildlife, in the face of utilization of vast area for multiple benefits, which to a greater or less extent limit wildlife production.
He has to tune his work and methods to forests which must produce timber, grasslands which must furnish grazing for domestic stocks and farmland devoted to almost innumerable crops.
His programme and plans must take into consideration these other uses in a way that will not seriously interfere with them. The Wildlifer, as the business manager of a great resource, must first maintain the resource and secondly, utilise it to the greatest possible advantage of the nation the public.
General Objectives of Wildlife Management
The aims and objectives sought will vary from place to place and probably from time to time. However, some of the common objectives of wildlife management are:
1. Preservation of species
2. Maintenance of population of useful species.
3. Stability or reducing population of certain species.
4. Limitation of wildlife utilisation to annual production capacity.
Problems of Wildlife Management
You are probably aware that the abundance and variety of wildlife are declining at a rapid rate and some of it is at the edge of extinction. There are a number of factors responsible for this state of affairs. These are social and ecological problems facing wildlife management in Nigeria. The problems include the following:
An individual that kills wild animals in protected areas without permission or kills protected animal species outside conservation areas is a poacher. The immediate effects of
wildlife poaching are decimation of game population and making wildlife shy or wary of visitors.
When animals become shy, and then become more difficult for tourists to sight, the consequence of this is reduction in visitor satisfaction. Poaching has major effect on animal population when the activity reaches an organized commercial scale.
Considering species such as Elephant (Loxodonta africana) which have relatively small numbers, reproduce slowly, and have a slow “population turnover” poaching may have adverse effect on the population.
Most of the poachers are aware that their activities are illegal. They are only taking the risks because of the income accruing to them from the sale of bush-meat. Poachers most often escape apprehension by the few and ill-equipped park protection staff.
When the poachers are arrested and prosecuted they are often sentenced to ridiculously light terms of imprisonment and/or fines. There is need to mount an effective public enlightenment campaign on the values of wildlife conservation and the negative effects of poaching rather than on the legal consequences of illegal hunting.
2. Bush Burning
This refers to bushfires that are set by poachers and farmers around the boundaries of protected areas. Poachers set fire in the wild to reveal wild game for easy target while farmers use fire as a tool on their farmland around protected
Fires originating from outside the park and those set by poachers often penetrate into and burn up protected areas particularly along the riverbeds, around the waterholes and over
the shelterbelts. In other words, illegal fire is a potent element in the destruction of habitat. And habitat destruction is in turn a factor in the extinction of animal species
3. Habitat Destruction
This posses a great problem to the survival of wild animal populations. The existence of wildlife is intricately tied to the available vegetation. The vegetation contributes immensely to characteristics of the habitat to which specific species of animals are adapted. This is the basic reason why the species of animals in the forest are different from those of the savanna.
Any functional alteration in vegetation therefore jeopardizes the survival of the species associated with that vegetation. In Nigeria, habitat destruction still remains a problem. In fact, protected areas even get reduced in size to provide land for other uses.
4. Illegal Grazing of Animals in Protected Areas
The abundance of any wild animal species depends mainly upon the condition of the habitat and the available food supply. And reproductive success in herbivores to a large extent is hinged on the quantity and quality of available grass, herbage and shrubs.
The population abundance of carnivores or predators depends largely on the availability of prey species. In Nigeria the Bororo Fulani cattle rearers bring their stock into the protected areas for grazing in contravention of the laws establishing them.
The cattle population in effects competes with the wild animals for the available food supply. The Fulani herdsmen also cut down branches of trees to make more food available to their animals and thereby leaving so many trees without crown. This in a way is a form of habitat destruction. The herdsmen frequently engage in poaching activities within the protected areas.
5. Illegal Settlement in Protected Areas
This is a situation where individuals establish illegal settlements within the park to carry out various offences such as illegal fishing and poaching.
6. Dearth of Trained Personnel
Since wildlife management is a relatively new discipline very few candidates apply to take the course in the Federal College of Wildlife Management and in the few universities that offer the course in Nigeria. Thus, there are very few wildlife experts in the field. A considerable number of the few graduates are outside the country on international appointments.
7. Inadequate Finance
The amount of fund released for the development of wildlife management is meager. This has translated into lack of field equipment’s; camping materials for game guards; field vehicles, and retarded development of tourist facilities.
8. Lack of Awareness of the Public About The Benefits Of Conservation
The level of awareness of the public about the importance of wildlife conservation is very low. This gives room for a situation where some people and even those in government do not see the reason why public fund should be allocated to it.
This also reduces the support of local communities for conservation effort leading to conflicts between the management of protected areas and local inhabitants. However, recent initiatives have been targeted at reducing such conflicts around national parks in the country.
9. Public Apathy
This is a situation where the citizens despite awareness are not ready to stand as a pressure group against any policy or action that may hinder the development of wildlife conservation in and outside protected areas.
For instance, in some developed countries there ate NGOs that are focused on the welfare of animals. And we are told that no conservation effort would be successful without the functional cooperation of the general public.
Endangered species are still freely sold in the market. In other words, wildlife laws and regulations are ‘irrelevant’ outside protected areas!
10. Political Instability
Instability in governance leads to frequent changes in policies, laws and regulations, and conservation programmes. Policy and conservation programmes are sometimes terminated at points at which they are about to be yielding dividends, all in the name of change in government.
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