Wildlife refers to all plants and animals that live and thrive in the wild, totally undomesticated, and excluding humans. There are millions of species of wild plants and animals all over the world and they enrich our lives in plenty of ways.
Hundreds of wildlife, ranging from plants, reptiles, mammals, fish, birds, etc, exist in Nigeria in a wide range of different habitats from mangrove swamps (salt and fresh water) to tropical forests and savannah areas, in addition to numerous water bodies – ponds, streams, rivers, lagoon, seas and ocean. There are also itinerant whales and dolphins found, occasionally, in the country’s waters.
Nigeria’s wildlife can be found in her national parks, wildlife parks and forest reserves. They include the national parks in the Chad Basin, Cross River, Gashaka Gumti, Kainji Lake, Kamuku, Old Oyo and Yankari; the wildlife park in Jos and the Okomu forest reserve.
1. The Chad Basin National Park stretches across Borno and Yobe states in North East Nigeria and spreads over an area of about 2,250 square kilometers covering the Bade Nguru, Bula Tura and Chingurmi Duguma areas.
Chingurmi Duguma is in Borno State and is the largest part of the Park. It is dominated by Acacia-Balanites woodland complex interspaced with a dense stand of elephant grasses. During the rainy season, a large part of the park is flooded with water from the Dorma river, which attract water birds and other wildlife. Chingurmi Duguma has recorded about 66 species of birds which include guinea fowl, black-crowned crane, demoiselle crane, Arabian bustard, Aviles bustard, African-collared dove, yellow-breasted barbet, black-scrub robin, chestnut-bellied starling, Sudan-golden sparrow, white stork, grey-breasted helmet guinea fowl, pallied harrier, etc.
Bula Tura is located in Yobe State and is made up of a series of swampy valleys, referred to as Oases. The area hosts some rare desert wildlife like the giraffe, ostrich, red fronted gazelle, jackals, mongoose, giant tortoise, panta monkeys, porcupine, ratel, spotted hyena, common duiker, warthog, dorcas gazelle, sitatunga, varieties of waders, glossy ibis, pelicans, secretary bird, knob billed goose, pintail, bustards etc. Also found close to the park is the famous Lake Chad with some aquatic animals like the hippopotamus, crocodile, clawless otter etc. This area is the only stronghold of wild giraffes and ostriches in Nigeria.
Bade Nguru is situated in Yobe State and hosts the Dagona Waterfowl Sanctuary which is internationally significant as one of West Africa’s most important stop-over points for birds migrating from Europe. For this reason, it has been listed as an IBA (Important Birds Areas) supported by Birdlife International. During the dry season, many thousands of European birds seeking sanctuary in Africa migrate here in order to escape the harsh European winter.
2. The Cross River National Park is located in Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State, South South Nigeria. The Park is known for its numerous species of plants and birds, and is also home to over three-quarters of the primate species that can be found in Nigeria. The Cross River National Park is one of the richest areas of tropical rainforest in West Africa. The Park is home to many localised species of plants and animals, which, include gorilla, drill, chimpanzee, a gwantibo or golden potto forest elephant, saleginella specie, baboon, leopard, red fox, drill monkey, buffalo and elephant, as well as numerous wild flora.
3. The Gashaka Gumti National Park is the largest wildlife park in Nigeria and located between the Gashaka village in Taraba State and the Gumti village in Adamawa State. The Park is host to lush forests, wide sweeping grasslands, cool highland plateaus, rugged moody mountains, and abundant wildlife. In November 2002, an isolated population of the red sunbird bush, an ornate species of the acanthus family, was discovered in the Park.
The Park hosts about 103 species of mammals which include the yellow-backed duiker, African golden cat (Profelis aurata), buffalo, the largest population in Nigeria of chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), elephant (Loxodonta africana), the klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus), the West African wild dog (Lycaon pictus manguensis), the hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus), the world’s largest antelope, the giant eland (Taurotragus Derbianus), the roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus), the kob antelope (Kobus kob), the oribi (Ourebia ourebi), and the rare Adamawa mountain reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula) in larger stocks.
The avian fauna is estimated to be up to one million birds such that the park is officially labelled as one of Africa’s “Important Bird Areas”, with more than 500 species found. The red faced lovebird is only found here and in the Central African Republic‘s Bamingui-Bangoran National Park and Biosphere Reserve.
4. The Kainji Lake National Park is one of the largest parks in Nigeria stretching across Niger and Kwara states. The Park contains a number of very valuable wildlife resources, such as elephants, lions, buffaloes, antelope, hunting dogs, hippos, patas, monkey, lion, python, and Nile crocodile. There are also leopard, hyena, kob, cobra, green snake, bush buck, tilapia, mountain reedbuck, red flanked duiker, oribi, grimms duiker, warthog, mongoose, stone partridge, snake head, hadada ibis, Bee eaters, electric cat fish clawless otters, hartebeest, turtles, manatees, roan goanna, baboons, antelopes, kobs, ape, Ducker, crocodile, etc. In addition, approximately 180 species of birds have been recorded to be housed by the park. And they include secretary bird, ground hornbill, jugglers, oriole warbler, great white pelicans and other rare pale arctic migrants.
5. The Old Oyo National Park extends from Oyo State in the South-West to Kwara State, North-Central Nigeria. The park harbours the Nile crocodile, rock python and land tortoise. Others include the elephant, buffalo, lion, western kob, roan antelope, western hartebeest, Grimm’s duiker, oribi, crested porcupine, anubis baboon, patas monkey, and tantalus monkey. In addition, there are the red river hog, gaboon viper, spotted hyena waterbuck, bushbuck, and warthog.
There are more than 30 bird species recorded in the Park. Some of the well-known ones are guinea fowl, hammer kops, white headed plover, African fish eagle (Cucumber vociferous), yellow mantled whydah (Euplectes spp), bush fowl (Francolinus bicalcaratus), Senegal fire-finch (Lagonostica senegalus), grey hornbill (Tockus nasitus) grey heron (Ardea cinerea) bannerman’s weaver (Ploceus bannermani) and crossley’s ground thrush (Zoothera crossleyi).
The Park has four types of vegetation which are dense woodland and forests outliers in the southeast part; mixed open savanna woodland in the central part, outcrop vegetation in the northeast and riparian grassland and fringing woodland occupying the forest plains and valleys along the Ogun River.
(To be continued…)