Africa

Ecotourism in Nigeria an untapped goldmine on spotlight with National Park Services (2)

We present you with the conclusion on the series on Ecotourism in Nigeria on the state of development of the National Parks Service during the webinar session by Naija7 Wonders’ team.

Old Oyo National Park: Home to ancient history, relics
Introduction

Old Oyo National Park is one of the seven national parks in Nigeria, It was initially created under Decree No. 36 of 1991, which was later repealed and replaced by Act 46, Cap 65 Laws of Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2010, which established two additional National Parks, namely Okomu and Kamuku National Parks.

The park was carved from two contiguous forest reserves: Upper Ogun and Oyo-ile Forest Reserves which were gazatted in1936 and 1941 respectively.

Due to high abundance and richness of fauna species diversity in the area, the two forest reserves were merged and converted in the late 1970s by the then Western regional government to form the Upper Ogun Game Reserve.

The game reserve was equipped with a few infrastructural facilities to facilitate eco-tourism.

These included five patrol posts, a 28 kilometres access road to the base camp at Ibuya and four rustic chalets for tourists and researchers.

The park covers an area of approximately 2,512 square kilometers, making it the fourth largest national park in Nigeria after Gashaka Gumti, 6,731 square kilometres, Kanji Lake, 5,340 square kilomeres and Cross River, 4000 square kilometres.

The park is about 120kilometres long from the southwest to the northeast and about 50 kilometres wide at its widest point in the south and is shaped like a saxophone.

Location
Old Oyo National Park is located in Oyo and Kwara states in Southwest and North Central Nigeria respectively. It lies between latitudes 80 10’ and 90 05’ North and longitudes 30 and 40 20’ East. The nearest national parks to it are Kanji Lake and Okomu National Parks.

The head office of the park is approximately 300 kilometres from Lagos, 45 kilometres from Ibadan, 105 kilometres from Ilorin, 660 kilometres from Abuja, 660 kilometres from Kaduna and 910 kilometres from Kano.

Access to the park
A network of fairly tarred roads surrounds the park, making it possible to reach all ranges of the park with relative ease.
Visitors from the Southeastern part of Nigeria and Lagos can travel through Ibadan-Iseyin-Sepeteri to enter the park at Ajaku gate.

Visitors from Abuja, Kaduna and Kano axis can travel through Ilorin-Igbeti route to enter the park at Jokoro,Tessi-Garuba or Apata gates. Those from Borgu Emirate can travel through Kaiama – Kishi-Soro route to enter the park through Soro gate, while those from central Benin Republic can travel through Yashikira – Kosubosu- Igboho to enter the park at Alaguntan gate.

Some of these routes are, however, inaccessible during the rainy season. The distance travelling from head office (Oyo Alaafin town) through Iseyin to the park is approximately three hours drive (135.3 km). In the same vein, distance from head office, Oyo through Ogbomoso -Ikoyi-ile – Igbeti- Igboho, is approximately four hours drive (228km).

The road condition is bad from Oyo – Iseyin (40km) while from Iseyin to Ago- Are – Sepeteri, the road is fairly good. Therefore, trip to the park requires four wheel drive vehicle.

Management objectives
To protect, preserve, conserve and manage representative examples of indigenous flora and fauna of the south west geographical region of Nigeria; To encourage general interest and education among the public in the knowledge of wild fauna and flora in order to gain their support for conservation;
To preserve the cultural, historical and archeological features in the abandoned sites of the former capital city of the ancient Oyo Empire at Oyo-ile, Bara and Koso; To encourage the public to visit the national park in order to enjoy and appreciate the aesthetic, spiritual and ecological values of nature, etc.

Readiness to receive ecotourist
The park is always ready forecotourist with the following features.

These includes: Animals: Roan antelope, western hartebeest, kob, red flanked duiker, grey duiker, patas monkey, baboon, waterbuck, oribi, warthog. Reptiles: Nile crocodile, and black viper Birds: Guinea fowl, bush fowl and woodpecker
Floral resources (Friendly Environment).

The entire park lies in the southern part of the guinea savanna and consists of four sub- vegetation complexes: Dense woodland and forest outliers in the Southeastern part; Mixed open and dense savanna woodland in the central part; Outcrop vegetation in the northeast and Riparian grassland and fringing woodland occupying the forest plains and valleys along River Ogun.

Archaeology
The abundance of cultural artifacts within and around the park makes it an ecological and historical park. Oyo-ile, in the Northeast corner of the park, was the capital of the ancient Oyo Empire. This empire was one of the first states to emerge in the forest and coastal region of West Africa.

It reached its peak between the 17th and 18th centuries. Other sites associated with Oyo –Ile are: Igboho,Ipapo-ile and Koso. At one time or the other, these sites served as the capital of the empire under different Alaafins. Alaafin Sango is believed to have committed suicide at Koso.

Oyo- Ile relics
The largest concentration of archaeological remains is found at Oyo-ile, of which the following relics have been identified: Four concentric defense walls around the former ancient city; Mejiro industrial site (consisting of black smithing, iron forgery and grain milling sites); A large water reservoir for dry season utilization; Esu and Ogun shrine; Aafin (palace) of Alaafin together with the village square and Akesan market.

Other relics found around the site are grinding stones, potsherds, snail and cowry shells, heaps of ash and charcoal, mud walls and tomb stones.

Cultural festivals
Various colourful annual cultural festivals are celebrated all over the park’s environs.

include: Oranyan festival (annually) – September; World Sango Festival (annually) – August; Oro Festival (annually) – May/June; Bebe Festival (annually); and Ifa Festival; Orisa Funfun Festival (annually).

Other sites
Other cultural sites include: The royal cemeteries at Igboho and Bara; The Antete shrine at Ikoyi-ile (a pot containing honey bees which were used to sting enemies of Ikoyi-ile to death during tribal wars) – The pot is purported to still be active today;

The Asabari shrine; Ibuya pool (a pool of River Ogun in the park). It was believed to cure various ailments when a patient takes his/her bath in the pool on Fridays; and Yemoso Hill (site of old settlements at its base). It harbours a lions’ den.

Conference/event
Multipurpose Hall; Activities’ centres both at the head office and Ikoyi Ile; Animal Orphanage (Duiker, Ostrich, Tortoise and water turtle); The staff/tourist canteen, bar and chalets at administrative head office at Oyo. Nature trails/Jeep tracks.

Accommodation facilities
Standard accommodation complete with potable water, electricity and satellite television service is available at Akoto Tourist Camp.

These include: 10 number of VIP suites; 8 number of executive chalets; Students hostel (40-60 bed spaces); Camping ground with tents; Standard room at Ibuya; Restaurant (60-120 seating space); Bar (Mini); Indoor games; Swimming pool; Gymnasium hall; Table tennis; Snooker board; A cycling; Changing rooms, etc.
Challenges

Poor road network to the park and into the park; Low income and zeal of Nigerians in leisure and tourism; Poor qualities of tourism infrastructure; Poor served tourist location; Under development, poor management or underutilisation and mismanagement of tourist resources.

All protected areas for ecotourism in Nigeria are economically dependent on either the federal or state government; and general insecurity. * Joseph Assam Ntui is conservator, Old Oyo National Park.

Cross River National Park:
A journey into Nigeria’s richest biodiversity enclave

Background

Cross River National Park (CRNP) was established with the primary purpose of protecting the remaining tropical rainforest in Nigeria, having already lost over 90% of her original rainforest due to poor land use.

The park is located in Cross River State, which lies in the extreme southeastern corner of Nigerian border with the Republic of Cameroon. It is mostly tropical rainforest vegetation, which thins out progressively, to montane savanna vegetation at the edge of the Obudu Ranch Plateau in Okwangwo area.

It exists as two non-contiguous divisions: The Oban division which covers about 3000 sqyaure kilometers and is contiguous with Korup National Park in the Republic of Cameroon, and the Okwangwo division, covering about 1000sqkm and contiguous with Takamanda National Park, also in Cameroon.

Biological resources
The park is reputed as the richest part of Nigeria’s biodiversity, as it is one of the 25 IUCN biodiversity hotspots in the world, and one of oldest forests in Africa and a home to over 2, 500 plant and animal species.

It is one of the UN recognised Important Bird Areas (IBA); and The Oban Hills, which is part of CRNP, is a proposed UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.

Faunal resources
Out of the 23 species of primates that are known to occur in Nigeria, more than 18 species occur in the park, representing 78% of total number recorded in Nigeria, including the Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli).

Other species of conservation interest include the endemic Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee, Drill, Baboon, Preuss’s Red Colobus, Forest Elephant, Forest Buffalo, and other iconic species.

Butterflies:
About 90% of all Nigerian butterflies and about 33% of all butterflies of continental sub-Saharan Africa are said to be found in park (Larsen, 1995; Obot et. al, 1996).

Floral resources
1,568 species of plants have been documented in Oban division while the Okwangwo division on the other hand has about 1, 545 documented plant species from 98 families.

Two of the plant species (Anceistocladus korupensis and Prunus africana) have attracted global attention because they are said to have potency for the cure of HIV/AIDS and prostrate cancer respectively.

Ecotoursim
Cross River State is Nigeria’s ecotourism paradise because of her unique ecological profile: From the aquatic splendour, viz the marine and the mangrove ecosystems along with the pristine rainforest in the southern part of the state, which runs through the central to the montane and derived savannah in the fringes of the northern part, the State remains a compelling destination for nature enthusiasts.

The strength of the park’s ecotourism offering lies in its rich rainforest ecosystem; Aside being the natural home to some iconic faunal species, the park is criss-crossed by several water bodies such as the Kwa, Ikpan, Bemi, Cross River and a host of streams with sandy shores; The water bodies are ideal for boating, swimming and sport fishing.

The Oban Hills provide an opportunity for adventure tourists for mountaineering and other height-related activities; Other avenues provided for the appreciation of the park’s unique endowments include: the caves (in Neghe and Erokut), camp sites and natural beaches.

Nature trails and jeep tracks are available for visitors to enjoy wilderness experience; The serene disposition of the emerald rainforest and its natural tranquility have huge therapeutic benefits to tourists; Located about 60km from Calabar, the state capital, is the Erokut Tourist Camp, with simple, but clean lodging facilities, along with catering services. The rich cultural manifestations, such as arts and crafts, cuisines, dances etc of the surrounding local communities add up to the unique ecotourism offerings of the park

Ecotourism and saving the rainforest
Ecotourism is a leading way for developing countries to generate revenue by preserving their rainforests; Ecotourists pay to see a country’s natural beauty, not the destruction caused by short-run exploitation; Ecotourism can provide local people with economic assistance, by offering employment opportunities as wildlife guides, Park rangers, and service workers in hotels, restaurants, and lodges.

With ecotourism, income is earned from preserving the ecosystem; Ecotourism can reduce the need for poaching and hunting of forest animals for income. In National Park Service, former poachers are hired as park rangers since they have intimate knowledge of local animal wildlife and the forest.

Benefits of ecotourism
Ecotourism helps to foster respect for local cultures and the environment increasing the awareness of conservation; Local communities can earn extra income from the creation of handcrafts which they can sell to tourists; Responsible ecotourism could help reduce deforestation and help to protect one in ten of the world’s species; Ecotourism helps preserve and foster respect for some of the most beautiful environments on earth.

It encourages travellers to help protect the environment and contribute to local communities on a much deeper level than the tourist just passing through; It provides sustainable income for local communities; It allows for new experiences with the environment; and It helps with research and development.

Conclusion
Given the array of its natural assets, from the biological to the geo-morphological, such as: the magnificent Obudu mountains and ranch, rising up to 1,500 meter above sea level, the scenic Oban Hills, the lush tropical rainforest, combined with its aquatic splendour, an illuminating cultural environment when taken along with a hospitable people, CRNP remains a veritable destination for different categories of visitors.

Caroline Samuel Olory is conservator of Cross River National Parks
Concluded
By Andrew Iro Okungbowa

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