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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Nigeria dangers dropping all its forest elephants – what we discovered once we went on the lookout for them

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Nigeria is certainly one of 37 African nations the place elephants are discovered within the wild. Savannah elephants (Loxodonta africana) might be discovered within the north and forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) within the south.

It’s not clear what number of elephants there are in Nigeria. Eighteen years in the past, the African Elephant Research Report estimated that there have been simply 94 elephants left within the nation. In 2021, it was estimated that there could possibly be about 400 elephants in areas not systematically surveyed.

What we do know, nonetheless, is that the numbers and ranges of elephants in Nigeria have declined tremendously over time. The principle reason for this has been human exercise, like logging and agriculture, which threaten their survival by lowering their pure habitat. Some elephant populations have been misplaced. Others exist solely in small, fragmented areas.

Elephant surveys had not been carried out in southern Nigeria for over a decade, and sightings of forest elephants are uncommon. Forest elephants are of explicit curiosity as a result of they’re labeled as Critically Endangered by the Worldwide Union for the Conservation of Nature.

We carried out a examine to ascertain their presence and decide the elements affecting their conservation.

We visited 4 protected areas in two nationwide parks and one forest reserve in southern Nigeria. We did discover small populations, totalling 40 forest elephants. This isn’t a viable inhabitants in the long term because it has been steered that “viable” elephant populations might vary from 400 to six,000 people.

Their survival is being threatened for six causes, particularly the affect of individuals’s actions.

Presence and distribution of elephants

We visited Okomu Nationwide Park; Omo Forest Reserve; and the Okwango and Oban Divisions of the Cross River Nationwide Park.

Elephants have been caught on digicam traps within the Omo Forest Reserve and Okomu Nationwide Park. They have been sighted within the Okomu Nationwide Park and the Oban Division of the Cross River Nationwide Park. Within the Omo Forest reserve, we discovered the charred bones of a poached elephant.

Of the 40 recognized utilizing micro-satellite markers, seven have been in Omo Forest Reserve, 14 from Okomu Nationwide Park, 11 from Oban Divison and eight from Okwango Division.

The way forward for these elephants seems to be precarious for quite a lot of causes.

The threats

Firstly, our examine discovered proof that stress from human exercise and adjustments in land use have been influencing elephant distribution within the examine areas. These have been additionally contributing to habitat fragmentation and forest degradation.

We discovered that land inside and across the protected areas we studied had been transformed to settlements. It is usually used for farming and monoculture plantations, the place elephant meals is proscribed. This has resulted in habitat loss and forest fragmentation, proscribing the ranges of the elephant populations.

Second, the presence of hunters’ sheds, spent cartridges, traps and hook snares confirmed that unlawful searching persevered in all of the examine areas. We discovered the carcass of an elephant in the course of the examine. Searching, as a risk to biodiversity conservation, has already been confirmed in research of Kainji Nationwide Park, Okomu Nationwide Park and the Cross River Nationwide Park. Arrests don’t all the time deter offenders as a result of the punitive measures aren’t heavy sufficient.

Thirdly, human-elephant battle is pervasive. Elephants raided crops and destroyed property in and across the examine areas. Most farmers within the surrounding communities lacked various sources of livelihood. Even small losses have been of financial significance and led to unfavourable attitudes in the direction of conservation.

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Within the Okomu Nationwide Park – which lacks a buffer zone – we detected elephant exercise exterior the protected areas.

Fourthly, the distribution of the elephants in small teams signifies that they face a excessive threat of native extinction. The populations within the Omo Forest Reserve and the Okomu Nationwide Park are utterly remoted. The protected areas are surrounded by farmlands and human settlements and the elephants don’t intermingle with different populations.

Learn extra:
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Fifth is the problem of forest degradation and shrinking of forest house. The Omo Forest Reserve is a Strict Nature Reserve – which means it’s not open to tourism – and is certainly one of Nigeria’s 4 biosphere reserves. However a lot of the forest is degraded and has gotten smaller.

Statue of an elephant
Cross River Nationwide Park is without doubt one of the habitats the place forest elephants might be present in Nigeria.
Kola Sulaimon/AFP/ Getty Pictures

The ultimate risk to elephants is that farmers weren’t paid compensation for crop losses arising from elephant raids within the examine areas. This contributed to a unfavourable angle in the direction of conservation. The Federal Authorities of Nigeria has no coverage provision for compensation to farmers. The Aichi Biodiversity Targets encourage incentives as a way of safeguarding biodiversity.

Bettering the conservation of elephants

Ecologically, elephants are a keystone species which have a large affect on the ecosystem. Their loss would have an effect on the atmosphere. Economically, they’re drivers of tourism, and culturally they’re icons of the African continent.

There are a number of steps that may be taken to guard them.

Consciousness programmes, livelihood alternatives and compensation must be launched to farmers. Along with acoustic deterrents and different mitigation strategies used world wide, they may examine losses as a result of crop raids.

Group conservation training and consciousness programmes work. They need to be rolled out to assist change unfavourable attitudes and get folks to cooperate in conservation efforts.

Learn extra:
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In our examine we noticed that elephants prevented harming cocoa farms. In circumstances the place elephants handed by them, the cocoa was not eaten. This behaviour was additionally reported on the Bossematié Forest Reserve, Côte d’Ivoire. This statement must be investigated to check whether or not cultivation of those crops might mitigate battle between folks and elephants.

Lastly, a species administration and monitoring plan must be put in place to assist preserve Nigeria’s forest elephant populations. A nationwide survey, to evaluate the inhabitants of elephants in all ranges in Nigeria, must be high precedence.


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