By; BALA B. BITRUS, Minna
The global awareness on the protection of wildlife by citizens in nations across the world is still a long distance to be embraced by most Nigerians and may continue this way for a long time in the future.
Wildlife conservation and protection of animals including most aquatics is unknown in Niger State which has the largest landmass in the country.
Most animals in the wild such as the Gazelles, Hyenas, Leopard, Monkeys and the likes, the Warthogs, Rhinos, Hippopotamus, Crocodiles and others that are still found in thick bushes and large water bodies in Niger State are endangered species and are delight anytime they are sighted by villagers, hunters or fishermen for their meats.
On Wednesday afternoon, an unlucky Hippo in the water bodies along the long stretch of the river Niger along it’s tributary at the Jebba axis of Niger State, swam out of its comfort zone to the banks of the river at Jebba Kungu village in Mokwa local government area of the state.
Fishermen and hunters who were at work around the place quickly rose to the occasion. All manners of weapons including guns, spears, bows and arrows were deployed to subdue the beast after several hours of fight with the lone ranger beast.
As the huge beast attempted to get back into the water, the arrays of weapons soon deployed against it brought it down to the joy of the villagers.
Soon, the story went round the village. Villagers in tens and hundred of numbers rushed to the scene to catch the glimpse of the animal just as exhilaration and jubilation was sparked off by the news of the great catch.
Some of the villagers even climbed atop the carcase of the huge beast. Others plunged into the water displaying their artistic prowess in swimming to celebrate the great kill.
It soon became a regatta affairs as locals played around their catch and performed acrobatics on the water.
Minutes later, a young man from the village fell off from one of the canoes on display and got drawn immediately.
The incidence was a rude shock to all because the villagers are known swimmers. Even toddlers from the adjourning villages according to our source, are good swimmers.
Was the water beast (Hippo) jinxed? Was it a water based spirit? The villagers are now awestrickened even as many have vowed not to go near the meat from the wild creature.
Though the remains of the twenty six year youth was later recovered by a team of experienced fishermen and divers after sacrifices were offered at the bank of the river and midstream after several hours of search, the body of the victim was buried along the bank of the river as traditions demands and according to known practices.
The older men in the village according to our source had ordered that the slained animal be taken to the traditional head of the coastal community for necessary rituals before it could be cut for meat and shared.
A local farmer told our source that Hippopotamus and Rhinoceros were often common sights on water and river banks especially at seasons from July through to November of every year.
He said the animals usually destroy farm crops as they graze on fields around the water sides.