Nigeria’s environment ministry has ordered an investigation into a video showing an endangered manatee being dragged along a street after the images of the captured sea mammal sparked outrage from conservationists.
In the video posted to Twitter on Saturday, a group of young men can be seen dragging the writhing creature along on ropes down a dusty street.
It is not clear when the footage was filmed but the post is the first time the widely circulated video has been shared online.
Nigeria’s deputy environment minister on Sunday condemned the capture of the manatee and called for officials to investigate and rescue it.
“My attention has been drawn to a very distressing and distasteful video of a captured manatee… being dragged on bare ground to a cruel fate,” Sharon Ikeazor wrote on Twitter.
“It is sad that manatees remain one of the most heavily hunted aquatic mammals,” she said, adding that an awareness campaign was needed “to educate our people to protect the manatee”.
Officials were investigating the capture and attempting to rescue the mammal, she added.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are an estimated 10,000 manatees along the coast of West Africa, but its population is rapidly declining.
Hunting manatees is illegal in Nigeria yet endangered mammals remain targeted, sought after for its meat, oil and organs, used in traditional medicine.
Horrific video of threatened West African manatee dragged down a street in Delta State, Nigeria yesterday. We have informed @sharon_ikeazor, Nigerian Minister of State for Environment, who has said she will issue a statement and take action. @UNEP @BonnConvention @OceanCare pic.twitter.com/bABmzpEyZg
— Blue Planet Society (@Seasaver) February 22, 2020
Widespread poverty in the Niger Delta region, despite decades of oil-wealth, fuels the hunting of endangered animals.
Oil leaks along southern Nigeria have also damaged the natural habitat for manatees and other aquatic life.
According to the Wildlife Conservation Society in Nigeria, legislation protecting endangered species are rarely enforced by government agencies.