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Enhancing the potential of Yankari Game Reserve

| June 16, 2012 More

The Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi State was demarcated by the defunct Northern Regional Government in 1957, but became a recreational facility in 1962.

At its inception, the reserve covered an area of 2,244 sq km, and haboured a wide range of prized indigenous wildlife, including baboons, monkeys, warthogs, hippopotamuses, lions and leopards.

Other animals included buffalo, gannet, roan antelope, bubal hartebeest and spotted hyena.

Also in the reserve were African elephants, African hunting dogs, cheetahs, giraffes, western kobs, red-fronted gazelles, bucks and stripped-hyenas. It also hosted water-bucks, Grimm’s duckers, oribi and red-flanked duckers.

Available records show that the reserve also hosted more than 350 species of indigenous birds, 26 species of fish, seven species of amphibians and

17 species of African reptiles.

The reserve was at different times managed by different governments and their agencies.

For instance, it was transferred from the defunct Northern Nigeria Government to the North-Eastern State Government in 1967.

With the creation of Bauchi State, the management of the reserve fell under its control in 1976.

However, in 1990, the Bauchi State Government sought the intervention of the Federal Government to save the reserve from extinction when it was clear that it could not effectively manage it.

The park was reverted to the state government in 2005 following an amendment of the National Parks Act by the National Assembly.

Stakeholders have argued that the handing over of the reserve to the Bauchi State Government was a good decision, pointing out the provision of improved infrastructure in the reserve since its takeover in 2006.

Although the exact population of the species of animals in the reserve is unknown, their numbers have depleted over the years with the loss of its prized species due to neglect and mismanagement.

This is due primarily to either the activities of poachers, adverse weather conditions or other natural phenomena.

The reserve is also at the risk of losing some of its endemic species of elephants due to several years of unchecked encroachment and poaching.

Experts have also expressed concern over the gradual extinction of some of the reserve’s finest and unique species of flora due to the depletion of its forest resources by human encroachment.

To regenerate and further boost the animal population in the reserve, the Bauchi State Government in 2006 received some 300 animals from Namibia, including Giraffe, Eland, Kudu, Impala and Zebra.

As good as Namibian gesture was, it was realised that the animals were alien to West Africa, and needed to be specially fed to protect them from premature deaths.

The animals were fenced in an area of about eight sq. km., with a provision of N750,000 monthly allowance.

The state government recently enlisted the services of 20 local hunters to check encroachment and the menace of poachers to ensure a 24-hour patrol of the protected areas of the 55-year-old West African eco-tourism park.

Besides, the government said that four additional rangers’ posts have been established in four villages to ensure effective surveillance of the reserve in the host communities.

The government’s effort received a boost when a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), “The Friends of Yankari (FOY)’’, donated equipment to ease patrol of the protected areas by the rangers.

The action was further complemented by the U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society which offered to support the anti-poaching efforts for a period of one year.

Beside these efforts, the rangers claim that the activities of poachers were a threat to the survival and regeneration of animals in the reserve.

They say that poaching was increasing by the day, just as the poachers are acquiring more sophisticated weapons for use in hunting and challenging the forest guards.

For the rangers, the increase in illegal hunting is due to the absence of stiff punishment to serve as deterrent.

This position was corroborated by some wildlife conservationists who urge that if action was not taken in good time, the reserve could lose its prized animal species.

“We make good effort to arrest the poachers; but those we arrested were handed light jail terms, with an option of between N3,000 to N4,000 as fine.

“They simply pay the fine and the next day, we encounter same persons; this time with more sophisticated weapons.

To counter the activities of poachers, the rangers also demand the provision of durable vehicles and sophisticated weapons.

Mr.Yohanna Namchi, General Manager of the Bauchi State Tourism Board says there are plans to impose stiffer penalties on poachers.

According to him, a review of the present three-month jail term penalty or maximum fine of N5, 000 will entail following due process of legislation.

Namchi, however, lamented that some of the rangers were also part of the problem, as they connive with poachers who carry out the illegal acts.

The state government has taken steps to fast-track the transformation of the reserve into money spinning eco-tourism centre, and has concluded plans to establish a branch of a commercial bank at the reserve.

It has also offered to establish a website to enable tourists to have first-hand information on the tourism potential of the state.

In addition, the state government has also signed an MoU with two South African tourism firms and a British tourism outfit for effective and proper management of the reserve.

The state government says plans are also underway to ensure more private sector participation in the management of the reserve.

Analysts have called for more private sector participation in the transformation process to guarantee its sustainable management process.

This, they say, is the surest way to launch Bauchi State and indeed Nigeria, in the world tourism map, and increase government capacity to generate more revenue from the tourism industry.


Category: Bauchi State News

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