NATIONAL PARKS IN NIGERIA

There are several national parks of Nigeria that are constantly managed by the Nigeria National Park Service (NNPS), an organization responsible for preserving, enhancing, protecting and managing vegetation and wild animals in the national parks of Nigeria. The NNPS works closely with the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation.

The first national park was Kainji Lake, established by the military ruler General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1979. The National Parks Governing Board and five new National Parks were set up in 1991.

Yankari Game Reserve was upgraded to a national park in 1992, although it was later handed over to the Bauchi State government in June 2006.The parks cover about 3% of Nigeria’s total land area.

There are Eight National Parks in Nigeria today and they include:

  1. Gashaka-Gumti National Park
  2. Kainji National Park
  3. Yankari National Park
  4. Kamuku National Park
  5. Cross River National Park
  6. Okomu National Park
  7. Chad Basin National Park
  8. Old Oyo National Park

Gashaka-Gumti National Park

Gashaka-Gumti National Park is located in a hilly region of North-east Nigeria adjacent to the international border with Cameroon. Visitors to the park are able to enjoy lush forests, wide sweeping grasslands, flat terrain plateaus, rugged mountains, abundant wildlife, and fascinating ethnic cultures, all combined within a single protected area.

Gashaka-Gumti National Park, the largest park in Nigeria, covers 6,731 sq km of wilderness. The park’s name is derived from two of the region’s oldest and most historic settlements: Gashaka village in Taraba State, and Gumti village in Adamawa State. Gashaka-Gumti National Park was created by Federal Decree in 1991 by the merging of Gashaka Game Reserve with Gumti Game Reserve.

The Northern, Gumti sector of the park is relatively flat and covered with woodlands and grasslands, whilst the Southern, Gashaka sector is hilly and contains enormous expanses of rainforest as well as areas of woodlands and grassland. This area is characterised by steep, thick-forested slopes, deep plunging valleys, and swiftly flowing rivers.

Rainforests provide a refuge for animals such as the Giant forest hog, leopard, Yellow-backed duiker, Golden cat, and many different primate species including chimpanzees. Woodland savannahs are home to buffalo, lion, elephant, and Wild dog, as well as various antelopes such as waterbuck, Roan antelope, kob, hartebeest and the world’s largest antelope, the Giant eland. The mountains of the park harbour populations of the rare Adamawa mountain reedbuck, in addition to Black-and-white colobus monkey, baboon, warthog, oribi, and klipspringer.

Hippos, crocodiles, otters and a wide variety of fishes are contained in its largest un-spoilt rivers. The park is officially labeled as one of Africa’s “Important Bird Areas” with over 500 species found here.  The red faced lovebird is only found here and in the Central African Republic’s Bamingui-Bangoran National Park and Biosphere Reserve.

Kainji National Park

Kainji National Park is a national park in Niger State and Kwara State, NigeriaThe merger of Zugurma game reserves and Borgue, created the park in 1979, covering an area of 5340km².

The park includes three different sectors:

  • A part of the Kainji Lake in which fishing is constrained
  • The Borgu Game Reserve to the west of the lake
  • The Zugurma Game Reserve to the southeast Kainji

Recorded in the park are 65 mammal species, 350 species of birds, and 30 species of reptiles and amphibians. These include the lion, leopard, caracal, elephant, numerous species of antelope, hippopotamus, African wild dog, honey badger, cheetah, Senegal bush baby, many species of monkey, and African clawless otter.

Reptiles include the Nile crocodile, West African slender-snouted crocodile, four turtle species, Nile monitor, savannah monitor, other lizards and snakes, and 12-amphibian species. There are 82 species of fish in Lake Kainji.

The wildlife of the Zugurma sector is less varied than of the Borgu sector because of poor drainage, overgrazing by cattle, poor quality vegetation and extensive poaching. The Climate exhibits wet and dry seasons from April to November and November to April respectively.

At Kainji Lake National Park, you can enjoy conservation education-lectures, easy housing and restaurant, boating on the Lake plus tour of the Hydro power station, tour of cultural places, fishing, camping facilities and indoor games.

There are two rivers in the park namely, Oli Menei, Doro and Manyara Rivers.

Kainji National Park is not safe at night as there are no security agents around the forest and one has to be extremely careful.

Yankari National Park

Yankari National Park is a large wildlife park located in the south-central part of Bauchi State, in northeastern Nigeria, covering an area of about 2,244 square kilometres (866 sq mi) and is habitat to several natural warm water springs, as well as a wide variety of plant life (flora) and fauna.

Yankari was initially created as a game reserve in 1956, but later designated Nigeria’s biggest national park in 1991. It is the most popular destination for tourists in Nigeria thereby playing a vital role in the development and promotion of tourism and ecotourism in Nigeria.

The rainy season is from May to September, where temperatures range between 18C and 35C. During the dry season, the harmattan wind blows from the Sahara, bringing dusty skies and night temperatures for as low as 12C. The hottest period falls in March and April, when temperatures can rise above 40C in the day.

During the dry season, most wildlife in the park depends on the Gaji River for survival. This river is the only dividing line that divides the park in two.

Yankari National Park is an important safe haven for over 50 mammal species including African bush elephant, olive baboon, Tantalus monkey, roan antelope, western hartebeest, West African lion, African buffalo, waterbuck, bushbuck and hippopotamus.

The lion population is on the brink of extinction, it was recorded that only two lions remained in the park in 2011. Leopard, which was long presumed to be extinct in the park, was captured on WCS camera-trap in April 2017

There are also over 350 species of bird found in the park, where 130 are resident, 50 are Pale arctic migrants and the rest are intra-African migrants that move locally within Nigeria. These birds include the saddle-billed stork, guinea fowl, grey hornbill, and the cattle egret.

Yankari is recognized as having one of the largest populations of elephants in West Africa, estimated at more than 300 in 2005. The increase of the elephant population has become a problem for surrounding villages at times as the animals enter local farms during the rainy season. The elephants have also deprived the park of many of its baobab trees.

The “Wikki Camp” is the tourist centre of the park, located about 42 kilometres from the main entrance gate, the camp is built beside and named after the Wikki warm spring, which is open for swimming 24 hours a day. There are about 110 furnished chalets with varying size and quality, ranging from the ‘’presidential’’ suites to the youth hostel, all of which are being upgraded in phases. The camp also provides a restaurant, bar and conference centre. Daily safari trips depart at least twice from the camp.

Kamuku National Park

The park is located in the west of Kaduna State, and is adjacent to the Kwiambana Game Reserve and 14 km away from main town. It was established in 1936 as the Native Authority Forest Reserve of Birnin Gwari under the Northern Nigeria Government and later upgraded from a state Game Reserve to a National Park in May 1999.

Mammals include the elephants, roan antelopes, duikers, hartebeest, baboons, warthog, bushbuck, green monkeys, Reedbuck, Grimm’s Duicker, Red-flanked Duiker, Baboon, Warthog, a variety of birds, insects, reptiles, rodents, etc.

There are at least 177 species of birds, including migrants and residents. The park is important for species such as the secretary bird, Denham’s bustard and the Abyssinian ground-hornbill, which are rare in other parts of Nigeria.

Kamuku shares the same ecology and boundary with the flourishing Kwiambana Game Reserve in Zamfara State, separated only by the River Mariga.

Kamuku National Park has a desirable biodiversity profile. It supports about 19 species of mammals including elephants (a major ecotourism attraction for visitors to the Park).

Cross River National Park

Federal Ministry Government Decree established the Cross River National Park in 1991, with the Cross River gorilla chosen as the theme animal. The park has been given the motto “The Pride of Nigeria”.

The park was first proposed in 1965, but serious planning did not start until 1988. The World Wide Fund for Nature UK played a vital role to establish the park in two divisions separated by farmland and the Cross River valley.

The Cross River National Park is an important biotic reserve, which contains one of the oldest rainforests in Africa. It is also one of the 25 United Nations commended biodiversity spots in the World.

Some portions of the Park lies in the Guinea-Congolian region of the lowland rainforest with closed shade and scattered emergent trees, which reach a height of between 40 and 50 meters. Studies have revealed that vegetation here has evolved over 60 million years ago.

There are 119 species of mammals in the Park. These include 18 out of the 23 species of monkeys found in Nigeria (representing 78% of Nigeria’s total), 48 species of Fish and 950 species of butterflies (90% of Nigeria’s totals) among a wide collection of insects.

Activities include game viewing, bird watching, gorilla tracking, mountaineering or hiking, sport fishing, boat cruising and the Botanical garden and Herbarium in Butatong.

The Park exists in two distinct, non-contiguous divisions; Oban and Okwagwo.

Oban Division:  This is the larger of the two divisions and is about 3000sq km in size with very high biodiversity concentration. It is ecologically adjacent to the Korup National Park in the Republic of Cameroon separated only by the international boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon.

Home to about 1,568 plant species (77 of which are widespread in Nigeria), 75 mammals including forest elephant, Chimpanzee, Drill and Buffalo, 382 birds including the olive green ibis and 42 snake species have all been documented in the Park.

The Oban division operates in two Ranges, Oban East and Oban West, for management and administrative convenience.

Okwangwo Division: is approximately 1000 sq. km, and has about 1,545 documented species of plants in 98 families. It is equally rich in biodiversity, some of which are extremely rare.

Two species of plants; Anceistocladus korupensis and Prunus Africana are generally regarded to have high medicinal properties, the former is claimed to be effectual against HIV/AIDS, and the latter against prostate cancer. These scientific discoveries have brought world attention to the Park due to their possible beneficial medicinal properties.

Many animal species occur in the Division, one of the most fascinating species is a sub species of the Gorilla – Gorilla (gorilla diehli), which is endemic to the area. The Bareheaded Rock Fowl previously thought to be extinct is also endemic to the area.

Attractions include the Kwa Falls, in a narrow, steep area near the headwaters of the Kwa River. The deep plunge pool at the foot of the waterfall was hidden under the thick shade of the tropical rainforest before deforestation.

Both divisions of the park are threatened by illegal logging, slash and poaching.

Okomu National Park Edo

This National park is located at Ovai southwest local government area of Edo state.Wildlife survey carried out in the then Bendel State in 1982 by P.A. Anadu and J.P. Oates revealed that Okomu contained a feasible population of the rare white throated guenon, a monkey endemic to southwest Nigeria, in addition to several other species of international concern.

The researchers then recommended that a wildlife refuge should be created in the centre of the reserve to give full protection from all forms of foreign exploitations. The State Government accepted the proposal for a wildlife sanctuary in August 1985.

The park is accessible to tourists, there are two tree houses, one 140 feet high in a silk-cotton tree, from which visitors can observe the park from above and watch bird life. Visitors can stay at chalets built on stilts, just outside the park entrance, surrounded by fig trees that are often occupied by Mona monkeys. Guides are available for forest walks, and will point out such things as termite nests and the many medicinal plants.

The park has diverse wildlife, with 33 species of mammals including the African buffalo and the rare African forest elephant. Elephant sightings are uncommon, although in 2007 a one-year-old elephant carcass was found which had died from natural causes.

Chimpanzees were reported to be present in the region in 2009, the number of chimpanzees estimated to live in the Okomu Forest reserve was guessed to be 25–50 in 2003. Other animals found in the park include dwarf crocodiles, red river hog, warthog, civet cat, grass cutter, Mona monkey, and tree pangolin.

About 150 species of birds also have been identified, birds such as the grey parrot, wrinkled hornbill, fish eagle, hawks, woodpeckers, great owl, grey hornbill, black-casqued hornbill, yellow-casqued hornbill, and yellow-throated cuckoo.

Chad Basin National Park

Chad Basin National Park lies within the former Kanem-Bornu Empire, the then Borno Empire developed within the Conventional Basin of Lake Chad, where the Chad Basin National Park stands.

The Empire played a major role in the growth and development of the Trans-Saharan Trade, Arabic and Islamic Learning, Scholarship and diplomatic ties with Countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Libya, Morocco and Spain. Because of the Continental Trade, Islam was first introduced to what is today Nigeria around the 11th century A.D through the Borno Empire.

The penetration of the European colonizers into the then Empire has to a certain extent influenced the local peoples’ way of life at various socio-economic, political and religious levels. Borno Empire is still very famous for their renown Durbar; a grandiose royal festival of horses, camels, Procession of Princes and Princesses in regal attire, assorted war weapons, leadership and military hierarchy and martial music, with likely origin from North Africa, or even as far as India.

The park falls between the two states of Borno and Yobe, it consists of three sectors namely: Chingurmi-Danguma situated in Borno, Wetlands and Bulatura both in Yobe state.

Old Oyo National Park

The national park originated in two earlier native administrative forest reserves, Upper Ogun established in 1936 and Oyo-lle established in 1941, these were converted to game reserves in 1952, then combined and upgraded to the present status of a national park.

However, the park takes its name from Oyo-lle (Old Oyo), the ancient political capital of Oyo Empire of the Yoruba people.

The location has without doubt placed the Park at a vantage position of abundance land area as well as diverse wildlife and cultural/historical settings. Eleven Local Government areas out of which Ten within Oyo State and one in Kwara State surround it. The landscaping and structured space within the large yard has made this park very attractive to the public.

The central part of the Park has secluded hills and ridges of several rock outcrops. The extreme Northern part has caves as well as rock shelters dominating the area.

Animal species found in abundance in the Park include Lion, Roan Antelope, Western Hartebeest, Grimm’s Duiker, Oribi, Crested Porcupine, Anubis Baboon, Tantalus Monkey, and Buffalo.

Old Oyo Park is a site for tourist attractions and has lots of beautiful and nature-filled places such as the relics of the old city walls of Oyo Ile, the great Agbaku Cave which has proof of Stone Age, the “Kosomonu” hill, the old Akesan Market, Alaafin’s Palaces and crucibles of pottery used centuries ago.

It is more preferable to visit the Old Oyo Park during the dry season between late October and early April because this is when the vegetation dries and animals are drawn to the watering holes, providing amazing wildlife spotting opportunities.

Photo credit: https://hometown.ng/

Photo Credit: https://guardian.ng/

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