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Hope for Nigeria’s wildlife conservation: elephant herd on the increase

by Ogunde, O.W & Adetunji, V.E

in WDA-AME Newsletter 2021, Vol.5, issue 1

A herd of some 250 elephants was spotted in Nigeria’s far northeast, close to the borders with Cameroon and Chad. This is the first reported sighting of elephants in the region since the Boko Haram jihadist insurgency began a decade ago.

Yankari National Park in north-east Nigeria is home to most of the country’s population of African Elephants. This majestic creature is the largest land mammal in the world, the image of which has become synonymous with Sub-Saharan Africa. Sociable and loyal, elephants here roam in herds, only the females separate from their peers to give birth and raise young calves. Sadly, ivory hunters and farmers have greatly reduced the number of elephants in Nigeria, and they are now endangered, but this area is one of the best places to view them in the wild.

The Omo-Shasah-Oluwa Reserve in the same region houses an elephant sanctuary, dedicated to the protection of the species, allowing visitors to view the elephants under their care. Therefore, due to concerted efforts by the state government of Bauchi in collaboration with non-government organisations, there has been an increase in the number of elephants in the country.

This effort has resulted in a massive reduction in the illegal hunting of this species to feed the ivory trade which has been an enormous threat in the region and has thus resulted in having an estimated 100 – 150 surviving elephants. Additionally, according to a report by Rosie Coyller, a new herd of elephants was spotted a few kilometres from Rann during a humanitarian mission carried out by helicopter. This is in line with a statement made by Tunde Morakinyo, a co-founder of Africa Nature Investors who said: ‘’the sighting of this herd means Nigeria’s elephant population has effectively doubled.”

It was also noted that hundreds of elephants used to migrate through the region up until a decade ago at around the time Boko Haram began fighting to establish an Islamic state. In 2014, Abubakar Shekau’s faction of Boko Haram set up camp in the Sambisa Forest that was formerly a game reserve the size of Belgium and The Netherlands. With the appearance of this herd, it indicates that peace is slowly re-emerging, according to Kabiru Wanori, Borno State's environment commissioner. Borno state which in the 1960’s was nicknamed ‘’home of peace’’ has no doubt experienced some gruelling change in circumstance, leading to the displacement of thousands of people and driving away of wild animals through the use of artillery fire. It is however a thing of joy to see the re-appearance of the big game back to that region and hopefully, with the decrease in violence in that region, more of these animals will be attracted to ‘come back home’.

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