Niger on Thursday warned it would prevent excessive use of wood for roasting sheep for an upcoming Muslim festival, declaring the problem imperilled the Sahel country's fragile forests.
The warning comes in the runup to Aid al-Adha -- widely known in West Africa as Tabaski -- next Wednesday.
"On this one day, 395,000 sheep will be sacrificed in Niamey and 48,000 tonnes of wood" will be burned to roast them, Colonel Oumarou Alou, environment chief for the capital region, told a press conference.
By comparison, Niamey's population of 1.5 million burns 273,000 tonnes annually, a figure that already is a source of deep concern, he said.
"Our (forestry) assets are being run down, and at this pace, if we fail to take bold steps, we will swiftly exhaust these meagre resources," Alou said.
He urged the public to turn to coal, rather than wood, to roast their festival sheep.
Forty kilos (88 pounds) of coal only costs 2,500 CFA francs ($4.3, 3.8 euros), he said -- "enough to roast three sheep, without causing pollution and giving a better quality."
For those who were bent on wasting wood, the colonel had a stern message.
Patrols will be carrying out checks on the quantities of wood entering Niamey, examining trucks, donkeys and camels for "fraudulent" loads.
According to the website Mongabay.com, Niger lost 44 percent of its natural forest cover -- a figure that excludes planted forests -- between 1990 and 2010.