By Jonathan Ugbal
The federal government has handed over the over 700 reptiles impounded by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in Calabar, the Cross River State capital to the University of Uyo in Akwa Ibom state.
The NCS had on July 26, 2017 impounded 140 snakes and 600 other reptiles including hairy spiders, frogs, geckos among others in three crates aboard the vessel MV Flesh from Cameroon and initially suspected were bound for the Asian continent.
And, three weeks after the Minister for Agriculture, Audi Ogbeh announced that investigations had commenced on the matter, the Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Usman Jubril handed the reptiles to the Department of Forestry and Natural Environment in the University of Uyo Friday in Calabar.
Mr. Jubril said the importers wanted to use Nigeria as a transit point to smuggle the reptiles whose destination as seen in the boxes was Rotterdam, Luxembourg and said that the reason for the release into the academic environment was to ensure proper study as the reptiles have the ability to wipe out the fauna if released without proper research on their abilities.
“The importers thought they could use Nigeria water channel or airports to smuggle the reptiles because they see our ports, airport and water channels as easy transit points for their nefarious activities but thanks to the Customs Service for their vigilance, they intercepted the items,” said Mr. Jubril who cautioned against harmful environmental practices.
“We must learn to have the interest of the environment at heart in all our activities. There are many things that these reptiles can do that are both destructive and beneficial to our habitat so we must always learn to ensure that we are vigilant at all times to ensure that nobody or organisation imports things that can negatively impact on our environment.”
He sued for greater inter agency collaboration to ensure the country’s interest is always protected at all times as demonstrated by the Nigeria Customs Service which impounded the boxes and promptly handed them over to the Nigeria Agricultural and Quarantine Services for safekeeping.
The National Accord reports that Dr. Edem Eniang of the Department of Forestry and Natural Environment Management, a snake expert who received the reptiles said that the snakes were professionally packaged for export and that the venom in African mambas is the best and the most sought after in Europe for the treatment of stroke and high blood pressure and that the snakes would have been milked for their venom by those who smuggled them had they arrived their destination.
He further disclosed that the snakes would be separated and those still alive would be trained in a snake farm and there after milked for their venom to be used for scientific research by the University.
CrossRiverWatch had reported that two were arrested in connection to the alleged smuggling.
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