Caretakers is a documentary project undertaken by Ebenezer Okike and friend, Mojirayo Ogunkanmi. They hope to showcase the beauty of purpose, of taking full responsibility for the existence of everything that breathes on this personal assignment.

This project was ignited by an understanding that man doesn’t just have a responsibility to care for himself but also for everything that exists around him, knowing that they are not the only beings living on planet Earth. A clear and proper awareness of this responsibility will give our existence as humans a greater sense of purpose and make us keen on conservation.

This led us to begin this photo documentation of Dr. Mark Ofua, a small animal veterinarian based in Lagos, Nigeria who cares for all kinds of animals. He is one of the many animal veterinarians in Nigeria; but unlike most of his colleagues, he stands distinct with his strong passion for wildlife rehabilitation and rescue. In a megacity like Lagos, this is a rare buzz for one to crave.

His practice has put together a team of people who have tapped into his passion for animals to aid with the care of the various animal species present in the shelter.

Dr. Mark’s approach towards animal protection goes in two ways making his practice really dynamic; He reaches out to “bushmeat” market hunters/traders, pays for their catch with funding from the proceeds from his practice as a small animal veterinarian. He then nurses the most times, injured animals, and sends them back to a protected wildlife sanctuary. Secondly, he carries our regular education of citizens at schools, market places, etc. on the importance of wildlife conservation and the consequent implication for the ecosystem.

This project is a call to all Nigerians and the citizens of the world, that there is a need for us to look beyond ourselves as Humans, we must begin to take care of our environment and Mother Earth. Mother Earth can do without us, but we cannot do without her. Our existence depends on her wellbeing.

In the words of Dr. Mark, not every animal deserves an immediate death sentence just to fill a hungry stomach.

Ebenezer Okike is a documentary photographer based in Lagos. He has worked immensely amongst communities in South-South Nigeria, with a focus on documenting education and immigration in the Northern parts of Cross River State. His approach to stories draws attention to emerging stereotypes among young people, he reaches out to communities that have “been cut off ”, underrepresented and/or misrepresented, using his images to give them a voice. He is a member of the African Photojournalism Database.

He embarked on this project with Mojirayo Ogunkanmi, a Paleontologist based in Lagos state.

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