EN­VI­RON­MENT Poach­ing: Gashaka Gumti Park rangers get arms

Daily Trust - - ENVIRONMENT - From Itodo Daniel Sule, Jalingo

About a year ago, Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan ap­proved the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of the Na­tional Park Ser­vice as a para­mil­i­tary or­gan­i­sa­tion in or­der to en­sure ad­e­quate se­cu­rity at the parks.

The park rangers have, over the years, faced daunt­ing chal­lenges of com­bat­ing un­whole­some ac­tiv­i­ties of poach­ers, mili­tias, in­trud­ers and herds­men who of­ten tres­pass into parks to wreck havoc.

Some of the park rangers have been re­port­edly killed and oth­ers griev­ously in­jured in the course of ward­ing off the in­trud­ers who are, most of the times, armed with so­phis­ti­cated weapons.

Lives of park rangers are of­ten in jeop­ardy in the cause of their du­ties as they would usu­ally go on sur­veil­lance through the park un­armed, thereby mak­ing them sus­cep­ti­ble prey to their en­e­mies-poach­ers and in­trud­ers.

Hence, de­ter­mined to com­bat the ac­tiv­i­ties of poach­ers and in­trud­ers at the na­tion’s na­tional parks and games re­serves, man­age­ment of Gashaka Gumti Na­tional Park in Taraba State, re­cently, trained its park rangers on para­mil­i­tary reg­i­men­ta­tions to en­able them han­dle arms and light weapons.

A to­tal of 149 park rangers were taken through in­ten­sive para­mil­i­tary drills and train­ing at the 20 Mech­a­nized Bat­tal­ion of the Nige­rian Army, Serti-Gashaka, Taraba State for two weeks.

Speak­ing dur­ing their grad­u­a­tion, Con­ser­va­tor Gen­eral of Na­tional Park Ser­vice, Al­haji Haruna Tanko Abubakar, said the train­ing was in tan­dem with the new sta­tus of the ser­vice which makes it im­per­a­tive for of­fi­cers and men to im­bibe para­mil­i­tary spirit and reg­i­men­ta­tion for ef­fi­cient dis­charge of their func­tions.

He said: “In the last two weeks, the par­tic­i­pants were ex­posed to ba­sic drills, en­durance, ob­sta­cles cross­ing and han­dling of light weapons. As a mat­ter of fact, the ster­ling per­for­mance ex­hib­ited by the rangers in their pa­rade this morn­ing jus­ti­fies the in­vest­ment in this train­ing.”

He urged the newly trained park rangers not to see their train­ing as a li­cense to in­tim­i­date in­no­cent Nige­ri­ans, adding that they must be civil, cour­te­ous and hum­ble in the dis­charge of their du­ties. He re­minded them that their duty is to serve the people.

But­tress­ing on the essence of en­hanc­ing a sus­tain­able en­vi­ron­ment, Al­ha­jiAbubakar said: “Un­less we take prag­matic ap­proach to en­sure sus­tain­able en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment, peace and tran­quil­ity will con­tinue to elude us. En­vi­ron­ment be­ing the great­est en­dow­ment to hu­mankind must be ad­e­quately con­served and pro­tected for sus­tain­able liveli­hood. We must un­der­stand that ev­ery­one has a role to play in mak­ing our en­vi­ron­ment safe”.

Also com­ment­ing on the train­ing, Con­ser­va­tor of Gashaka Gumti Na­tional Park, Dr O.A. Okey­oyin, said the train­ing had im­pacted the trainees with the needed skills aimed at meet­ing the vi­sion of Na­tional Park sys­tem which en­tails preser­va­tion and pro­tec­tion of Nigeria’s nat­u­ral her­itage and cul­tural relics.

Dr Okey­oyin, how­ever, warned: “To you of­fi­cers and men of Gashaka Gumti Na­tional Park that are pass­ing out to­day, I want to chal­lenge you to make the best use of this train­ing in ef­fec­tive pro­tec­tion and man­age­ment of the re­sources of the park. Let it not be heard of any of you con­niv­ing with poach­ers and other in­trud­ers to per­pet­u­ate il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties in the park.”

He urged them to col­lab­o­rate with the men of the Nige­rian Army to put an end to wildlife tro­phies traf­fick­ing along the high­ways, stress­ing that they must con­trib­ute their quota to the de­vel­op­ment of Na­tional Park Ser­vice.

Gashaka Gumti Na­tional Park and its po­ten­tial

Gashaka Gumti Na­tional Park is lo­cated in the re­mote moun­tain­ous re­gion of north-east­ern Nigeria, be­tween the bound­aries of Adamawa and Taraba states.

Eco­log­i­cally, the park is sit­u­ated in the sub-sa­hara Guinea Sa­van­nah Zone of Africa, in the sub-trop­i­cal zone of the south-east­ern high­lands of the Sa­van­nah area of Nigeria, south of the Benue River.

The park is the main wa­ter­shed/ catch­ment area of the Taraba River, the ma­jor trib­u­tary of Benue River. It also shares in­ter­na­tional boundary with Repub­lic of Camer­oun, ad­ja­cent to Faro Na­tional Park in that coun­try. The Park lies within an es­ti­mated land­mass of 6,731 square kilo­me­tres of un­du­lat­ing and ter­rain deep rolling val­leys. It is ad­min­is­tra­tively di­vided into Gumti Sec­tor in the north (Adamawa State) and Gashaka Sec­tor in the South (Taraba).

Gashaka Gumti is among the seven na­tional parks in Nigeria. It is the largest, most scenic and bi­o­log­i­cally di­verse con­ser­va­tion en­clave. There are few con­ser­va­tion en­claves in the world that can boast of such unique, spec­tac­u­lar and di­verse scene ties as this vast and rel­a­tively un­spoiled en­clave.

The park en­com­passes Sa­van­nah, forests, wet­lands and mon­tane habi­tats in a con­tin­u­ous eco­log­i­cal tran­si­tion. Gashaka Gumti is a po­ten­tial ex­ten­sion to a wildlife cor­ri­dor sys­tem mov­ing in a north-easterly di­rec­tion to Faro, Be­noue And Bounand­jida Na­tional Parks in Camer­oun.

Gashaka Gumti Park is a home to wide range of fauna and flora you can ever imag­ine. The sheer va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent habi­tats within the park makes the area uniquely rich in wildlife. Each habi­tat type sup­ports its own dis­tinc­tive com­mu­nity of plants (over 1,000 dif­fer­ent species recorded) and an­i­mals (about102 mam­mal’s species so far recorded).

Rain for­est pro­vides home for an­i­mals such as gi­ant-for­est hog, leop­ard, yel­low backed duiker, golden cat and dif­fer­ent pri­mates. Wood­land Sa­van­nah is home to buf­falo, lion, ele­phant, and wild dog. This is in ad­di­tion to var­i­ous an­telopes such as wa­ter­buck, roan an­te­lope, gi­ant eland, kob and har­te­beest, amongst oth­ers.

The park’s moun­tain har­bours pop­u­la­tion of rare en­demic species; sci­en­tists have dis­cov­ered new species of Acan­thae­ceae, a red flow­er­ing shrub of the genus metarun­gia whose near­est rel­a­tives are found in East African Mon­tane Forests.

Other at­trac­tive an­i­mals found in Gashaka Gumti Park in­clude the rare Adamawa Moun­tain Reed­buck, black and white colobus mon­key, oribi and Klip­springer.

The rivers con­tain hip­pos, croc­o­diles, otters and wide va­ri­eties of fishes (over 60 species) and var­i­ous aquatic and am­phibi­ous lives. The park’s ecosys­tem are still rich in birdlife (over 477 species so far recorded and but­ter­flies (300 species out if which 5 species are new to sci­ence).

The park ex­pe­ri­ences vary­ing but pleas­ant weather con­di­tions depend­ing on spe­cific lo­ca­tions, these mi­cro­cli­matic con­di­tion range from dry­hu­mid, trop­i­cal moist-hu­mid in the low lands, to sub-tem­per­ate cli­mate on the plateaux.

Rain­fall in the north­ern part of the Park is around 1,200mm and 3,000mmin the south at higher al­ti­tudes. Gashaka Gumti’s big­gest at­trac­tion is the unique op­por­tu­nity to ob­serve chim­panzees undis­turbed in their nat­u­ral habi­tat mainly at Kwano For­est, Lianga Moun­tain, Gumti area and Chap­pal Wade.

The con­ve­nient time for parkview­ing or hol­i­day­ing is from late De­cem­ber to April. This pe­riod, it was learnt, is when vis­i­tors may be able to see a lot of wildlife species, var­ied pic­turesque scene rise, dif­fer­ent veg­e­ta­tion types and pur­sue a com­bi­na­tion of eco-tourism and recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties as well as ed­u­ca­tional trips.

Gashaka Gumti is, ar­guably, a wild world of won­ders, es­pe­cially for those who love ad­ven­tures and have eyes for aes­thet­ics


Newly re­cruited Park Rangers dur­ing their grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony in Taraba re­cently.

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