Nigeria: Succour for Yankari Elephants


By Alex Abutu, Daily Trust

Date Published
Yankari Game Reserve contains the largest surviving contingent of elephants in Nigeria and West Africa but, of late, these animals have been subjected to ill treatment, including killing them for the thriving ivory market in Asia.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) recently entered into a strategic partnership with the Bauchi State government to manage the conservation of Yankari Game Reserve.

A statement by WCS said the Society signed a four-year agreement with officials of the state to manage conservation work in Yankari, considered the nation’s richest protected area.

The reserve contains an estimated 350 elephants – the only viable population remaining in Nigeria. In addition, the 866-square-mile (2,244 square kilometres) reserve supports important populations of lion, buffalo, hippo, roan antelope, and hartebeest.

Originally created as a game reserve in 1956, Yankari was upgraded to a national park in 1991. It was managed by the National Parks Service until 2006 when responsibility for the management of the reserve was handed back to Bauchi State government. Since then, tourism infrastructure has been dramatically improved. Yankari is now one of the most popular tourism destinations in Nigeria.

Support from WCS began in 2009 and it has led to a significant improvement in the protection of wildlife, although hunting and grazing of livestock within the reserve have not yet been brought under full control.

Reports suggest that an unknown number of elephants may have been killed in recent years to sustain Nigeria’s illegal trade in ivory.

In addition to the funds provided by Bauchi State government under the terms of the agreement, WCS’s 96 Elephants campaign will also provide funding and support for regular anti-poaching patrols in Yankari, including equipment and training.

Dr. James Deutsch, Executive Director of WCS’s Africa Programme said: “We are extremely proud to be entrusted with preserving this critically important wildlife area by the Governor of Bauchi State, Malam Isa Yuguda, for the benefit of the people of Bauchi State and Nigeria.”

WCS is working to save wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.

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