Illegal wildlife trade in Nigeria


Wildlife trade refers to the sale of products that are derived from non-domesticated animals, usually gotten from their natural environment or raised under controlled conditions. This can be done legally under the right conditions.

Not all wildlife trade is illegal. Wildlife trade escalates into a crisis when an increasing proportion is illegal and unsustainable—directly threatening the survival of many species in the wild. Illegal wildlife trade (IWT) is a criminal practice with ecological and public health consequences. It is widespread and constitutes one of the major illegal economic activities, comparable to the traffic of drugs and weapons. Examples of IWT are well known, such as poaching of elephants for ivory and tigers for skins and bones.


Investigations by Premium Times and Mongabay, shows that Nigeria has for years failed to hold wildlife traffickers and poachers accountable for their crimes, despite federal and state laws that criminalize the killing and trading of protected species. The Nation has become a major transit point for the illegal trade in pangolins, the scaly anteater known for being the most trafficked mammal in the world. Sadly, poachers and traffickers were often not arrested or traced. Most of those who were detained were not prosecuted, very few cases make it to court, and defendants were asked to pay a nominal out-of-court settlement fee and continued to operate after release.

Laws and regulations involved

  • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Speciesof Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
  • The National Wildlife species Protection Act Endangered Species (control of international trade and traffic) Act of Nigeria, 1985(amended Act, 2016)
  • Nigeria Customs Service (NCS)- for wildlife material confiscation.
  • National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) Act 2007 and Regulation 2009- 2011- The agency exists for the documentation of seizures, investigation and prosecution of wildlife traffickers.
  • Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(as amended)- in it’s Section 20, provides for the protection of wildlife).


The United Nations office on Drugs and Crime, has implemented a project to help combat IWT in Nigeria. A Nigerian Lawyer, K.B, Oyende, has also written a comprehensive article on regulating the protection of Wildlife in Nigeria, making a case for the local enforcement of CITES. There also exists a progress Report on the Nigerian national Ivory action plan, submitted to the CITES secretariat, showing ivory seizures, arrests that have been made, and cases before the court.

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