NCF trains national park rangers for improved lions protection
As human-wildlife conflicts, poaching, illegal grazing and logging persists, most endangered species in Nigeria are left on the brink of extinction, says Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF).
This was disclosed during training as part of the ongoing project titled “Emergency Rescue of Nigeria’s Last Populations of West African Wildcats – Lion (Panthera leo) and Leopard (Panthera pardus) in Kainji Lake National Park (KLNP). The Geographical Information System (GIS) training workshop for Rangers of KLNP held in Niger State was organised with the support of IUCN Save Our Species and the European Union.
The project is designed to address the identified challenges of habitat degradation from unsustainable land-use activities, animal poisoning and hunting pressure. The goal is to improve the conservation and range protection of lion & leopard in KLNP with a 50 per increase in park surveillance and a 70 per cent reduction in livestock invasion into the park by December 2023.
The training’s objective is to improve rangers’ capacity for monitoring and interpreting data using GIS for effective management decisions. Furthermore, rangers will be equipped with additional tools (drone, camera traps, GPS etc) to improve park surveillance and wildlife monitoring by December 2023.
According to the Conservator of Park, CP Jimoh Oladosu, while appreciating the initiative, “One of the benefits of the training is to improve on how to use some gadgets. We really appreciate NCF and IUCN for this initiative. It will make our rangers better and improve the park.”
The workshop facilitator, a GIS expert, Dr. Michelle Fasona, said: “The job of managing our national parks by rangers is usually challenging because of the nature of their work. The training on the use of GIS for rangers is a good initiative. The use of GIS techniques is a useful time-saving tool for rangers when surveying and gathering data from the field. The information gathered from the use of GIS can help park rangers to make more informed decisions when managing the park’s resources”
The park is located in Niger and Kwara States comprising Borgu and Zugurma, which are separated by Kainji Lake, a lake impounded on the Niger river for hydroelectric power generation. The park is recognised as a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) and one of the two sites in Nigeria with a viable population of Lions, it is also the first National Park in the country.
The area is rich in biological diversity and harbour endangered species such as lions and leopards, among other rich diversity like a baboon, buffalo, waterbuck, reedbuck, duiker, warthog, hippopotamus, monkey, crocodile, birds, Costus spectabilis and species of reptiles.
The Borgu sector, which is currently being used for tourism purposes, lies between Borgu and Baruten Local Government Areas of Niger and Kwara States and covers an area of 3,970 km2. It is bordered to the east by Kainji Lake and in the west by the Republic of Benin. Zugurma sector covers an area of 1370.89km2 and it is situated in Mashegu Local Government Area of Niger State.
The park is surrounded by different towns and villages which cut across different ethnic groups. Some of which are Bussa, Wawa, Kamberi, Kainji, Babana, Kaiama, Ibbi, Nupe and so on. The cultural occupation of the people is farming guinea corn, maize, and rice; cattle rearing; dyeing, blacksmithing, weaving, hunting, fishing, petty trading, and pottery making.
The project coordinator, Dr. Stella Egbe, said: “KLNP is important as a Key Biodiversity Area and one of the only two sites with a viable population of lions in Nigeria among another rich biodiversity. However, the challenges of unsustainable anthropogenic practices threaten both the habitats and species within the park.
With the support of the IUCN SOS funded by the EU, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation implemented this series of training and other activities to improve the conditions of the National Parks, improve rangers’ capacity and promote sustainable activities in communities surrounding the National Parks.”
Deforestation, illegal hunting, uncontrolled or indiscriminate bush burning, illegal grazing, unsustainable farming and human-wildlife conflict are identified problems the park is facing.