Recently, Arise News did a story on the bushmeat trade in Nigeria. It featured the Greenfingers Wildlife Conservation Initiative and their efforts to conserve endangered animal species and also bring people closer to nature. It showed snippets of the bushmeat market and what I saw was quite shocking. Monkeys, crocodiles, antelope and pangolins (one of the most trafficked animals in Asia and Africa) in different stages of decapitation. But I digress...
I decided to visit Greenfingers for myself and it’s breathtaking; a dreamscape garden with clean sand and beautiful murals that are made incorporating recycled bottle caps. I met Chinedu Mogbo, the founder of the conservation and he gave me a tour. His passion for animals is pretty obvious, I could tell from how he had a personal relationship with every animal and how he recanted their rescue stories.
We started with the aviary. It’s a big one with a lot of foliage to simulate a natural environment. There is ample room for the birds to fly around and I had a great time spotting the unique and colourful species. If you look closer, you will notice some small antelope and some fancy pigeons.
I saw some geese on their daily walk and wondered if they would get aggressive towards me, but these ones didn’t. Geese are known to be quite territorial but these ones are living a soft life and are used to having humans around. It’s really great to see animals well taken care of and they almost seemed to pose for the photo.
We came across a raptor enclosure next and it housed a golden eagle, a yellow billed kite and a very handsome bateleur eagle. His face and feet were bright red and made him look gallant so I made sure to capture his best side. Fun fact, these eagles are monogamous and can live for up to 27 years.
The section with the aquatic birds was up next. I spotted a black crowned crane, Nigeria's national bird. There’s some confusion around this but thanks to some internet digging and figured it out on Nairaland. The issue is that our National animal is also a bird, the eagle.
Some orphaned baby primates were up next and this adorable baboon was so full of character. This little guy had lost his parents to the bushmeat market and was rescued and brought to the sanctuary. I fed him some peanuts and took cute pictures of him stuffing his face. You really can’t get this close to nature anywhere else.
The sanctuary had lots of other animals and Chinedu was on hand to answer all my questions. I have always had a passion for animals and I had flashbacks to all the pets I used to keep growing up - my inner child screamed with joy because he was basically living my childhood dream. I've given up on that now, but I can always live vicariously.
Now I don't know if he purposely left the best for last, but I was basically bursting with glee when he showed me the pangolins. As I mentioned earlier, this is one of the most trafficked animals in Asia and Africa. They are the only mammals that are wholly-covered in scales and roll up into a ball when they feel threatened, and I had one in my hand - real life Pokemon! Click HERE to learn about them.
They are killed in staggering numbers every year for their meat and their scales and in 2016, 180 governments signed a treaty to end all legal trade of pangolin parts. Nigeria has one of the largest bushmeat industries in the world with scary metrics for this species in particular. Our laws to conserve these species are simply too weak to counter the trade. I think we need to make more noise about this, what do you guys think? Let me know in the comments.
Greenfingers is very welcoming of visitors to the sanctuary. All you have to do is give them a call them on +234 818 874 3394 and I have put their google maps link HERE. You can check out their instagram HERE.