ENVIRONMENT Poaching: Gashaka Gumti Park rangers get arms
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.