Andrew Dunn, the Country Director of Wildlife Conservation Society, Nigeria, spoke on the increasing demand for wildlife products across the globe and the difficulties that face the logging in Niger Delta region. Watershed communities situated around Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, Cross River National Park and the Mbe mountains seem to have been neglected but are definitely not abandoned. United State Agency for International Development (USAID) has a new project that aims to promote water resilience and security in about 137 communities and ecosystems which rely on the Watershed in Bauchi and Cross River State.
This programme is to increase the maximum participation of the people in the maintenance of water supply and sanitation, through the provision of opportunities and capable means of income, while charging local communities and civil society to help manage natural resources and watersheds. For over 20 years now, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has worked in landscapes and has come to realize that it needs the support of local communities in the achievement of successful conservation. Management of these watersheds on a long-term basis should be concerned on how to strengthen existing protected areas like Cross River National Park and building watershed control as communities inhabit the location.
Small-scale farming is a major cause of logging.
Deforestation has been tagged the major obstacle to forest conversation in Cross River particularly and other parts of the nation. This method has been monetized for export gain in the market. Deforestation has increased drastically with the backing of great and influential local politicians which has ignored the constitutional regulation. There has been a restriction on deforestation which has deprived the right of the local residents although this detriment has caused pillage, the Cross River State Forestry Commission watch without addressing it.
Importantly, the local communities need to take charge of their forests but the issue has to be addressed. In the same vein, funds are needed to regenerate Cross River National Park and revive the Cross River State Forestry Commission. However, logging is not the deadliest threat to forestry in the state and Nigeria as a whole. One of the major causes of logging in Nigeria is small-scale farming, where a forest is cleared for the purpose of planting crops like cocoa, banana. Nevertheless, WCS is working in collaboration with over 1000 cocoa farmers to curb deforestation in the state, sustain cocoa production, protect wildlife reserves and watershed.
Communities are enlightened to join in conservation of wildlife.
In the previous year, state insecurity and kidnapping impeded WCS activities in Yankari Game Reserve and its environs, discouraging visitation to some areas. Although, it has caused insecurity in the state, WCS with security agencies have worked to ameliorate the issue. It is important to note that this case of insecurity and kidnapping has reduced the revenue generated by national parks as tourists are unable to visit them. Iconic species like Giraffes, wild dogs and rhinoceros have gone extinct in the country. Therefore, WCS aims to conserve gorillas, lions, elephants and chimpanzees by establishing a platform for people to contribute to their non-extinction.
WCS has established over 200 Conservative clubs in Cross River local schools and clubs even in Bauchi within Yankari Game Reserve. And also, through the help of the radio programmes it has in the two states, there will be enlightenment of people. Positive behavior towards wildlife was recorded by WCS during their contact with some communities they work in. Evidence is seen from the kindness shown by some communities that left a wandered gorilla to go back to the sanctuary as a system of tolerance. This is in contrast to past account of gorilla killing by some communities.
Transboundary MoU between Nigeria & Cameroon to stop trafficking.
Trafficking of wild animals has been one major trade in Nigeria, such as the export of elephants ivory and pangolin scales to China or Vietnam after being trafficked into the country from Central Africa. Also, trees like ebony and rosewood are also exported out of the county. WCS stated their plan on a transboundary Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Nigeria and Cameroon to curb the illegal trafficking of wild animals. In a nutshell, the country is working towards developing a Transboundary World Heritage Site between Cross River National Park and Korup National Park and Takamanda National Park in Cameroon. Also, trained officials are being groomed from NESREA to tackle illegal wildlife trade.