… Calls for Concerted Efforts to Protect Wildlife in Bayelsa.
Following increased hunting and poaching of chimpanzees in forest reserve in the state, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Bayelsa State Governor on Tourism, Mr. Piriye Kiyaramo has called for concerted efforts to protect endangered species in the Edumenum National Park, covering 86.76 km2, home to chimpanzees and Apoi National Park, covering 64.77 km2, where the critically endangered Niger Delta Red Colombus is found, among several species.
While expressing his displeasure in an interview with newsmen in Yenagoa, Wednesday over recent killing of chimpanzees in Edumenum National Park in the Nembe axis by locals, Mr. Kiyaramo, said all great apes, including chimpanzees are either endangered or critically endangered.
The governor’s aide who lamented that bushmeat has always been a primary food source in Central and West Africa, pointed out that in recent years poaching has become commercialized to satisfy the appetites of wealthy urban residents, with infant chimpanzees being frequently taken alive and sold in cities as pets.
He added that promotion of chimpanzee tourism has the potential to generate funds that could even be used to protect wildlife habitat and help the adjacent communities to the national park to see value in protecting native wildlife, reiterating that wildlife tourism will greatly benefit the endangered the populations of the chimpanzees in Edumenum National Park.
Mr. Kiyaramo further suggested the introduction of small-scale chimpanzee tourism programme as part of efforts to create the awareness of the importance protecting wildlife for ecotourism reasons where few visitors would be allowed to spend brief to observe the chimpanzees without disruption their natural behaviours in the wild.
While calling for effective collaboration and partnerships among relevant ministries, departments, agencies and the park adjacent communities to design and implement wildlife tourism programmes to promote chimpanzee conservation, he regretted that creating awareness on the significance of conservation among community folks still presents a unique challenge.
He informed that Chimpanzee tourism offers exclusive opportunities for private tours companies in the Edumenum National Park, as according to the governor’s aide, chimpanzees which are friendly to humans, remain some of the most sought after primate species in the East African region, pulling primate lovers to visit the East African region with excitement to see chimpanzees in their habitats.
Mr. Kiyaramo noted that: “Sadly, there are very few places left where you can still see chimpanzees in the wild. The best countries to see these endangered creatures in Africa are Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda, adding that although all of the chimpanzees in these places are wild, many groups of chimpanzees have become fully habituated to humans.
He further explained that because of their evolutionary proximity to humans and the behavioural similarities between humans and apes, people all over the world are fascinated by great apes and wish to see them in the wild, saying that in many parts of Africa, the result has been the development of tourism, with the main goal of which is to observe habituated chimpanzees or gorillas in the wild.
“This form of tourism is often regarded as ecotourism which provides alternative income for local people who would otherwise use forests for agriculture, housing materials, firewood, and medicinal plants and sometimes hunt wild animals, including great apes, for meat. Such tourism initiative can also
serve as an important source of funds for the conservation budget.
“For example, in Uganda, tourism has become the principal internal source of foreign exchange, and chimpanzee and gorilla tourism are responsible for 52% of the tourism revenue. The project could bring in tourism to sustain a community and attract interest from funders. Concerted efforts to sufficiently habituate chimpanzees for tourism is necessary here”, the SSA reiterated.
Recall that in 2020, the federal government approved 10 additional National Parks, bringing a total of 17 parks in the country. Parts of the places approved were Apoi Forest Reserve, now Apoi National Park, 64.77 km2 and the Edumenum Forest Reserve, now Edumenum National Park 86.76 km2. Consequently, the federal government approved the sum of N500 million take-off funds for the 10 newly-approved National Parks.
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s (DSWF) position on the international trade in chimpanzees is that in the last six years, over 14,000 chimpanzees have been lost to the illegal wildlife trade, with one chimpanzee being poached every four hours to satisfy consumer demand.
While the Niger Delta red colobus which is confined to the Apoi Creek National Park, a patch of marshy forest in southern Ijaw Local Government Area in Bayelsa state being a critically endangered monkey that numbers as few as 500 in the wild, there is the urgent to deploy security personnel to the national parks in the state to curb the incessant poaching of chimpanzees and other wildlife that are endemic in the state.