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Protecting lions: NCF trains National Park rangers

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As human-wildlife conflicts, poaching, illegal grazing and logging persists, and most endangered species in Nigeria are left at the brink of extirpation or local extinction, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) has hosted a Geographical Information System (GIS) training workshop for Kainji Lake National Park (KLNP) rangers.

Organised with the support of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Save Our Species and the European Union, the training was part of the ongoing project titled “Emergency Rescue of Nigeria’s Last Populations of West African Wildcats – Lion (Panthera leo) and Leopard (Panthera pardus)” in KLNP. It was held on Tuesday, 21st June 2022 at Federation of Borgu Youth Hall, New Bussa, Niger State.

This project is designed to address the identified challenges of habitat degradation from unsustainable land use activities, animal poisoning and hunting pressure. The goal is to improve the conservation and range protection of lion and leopard in KLNP with 50 percent increase in park surveillance and 70 percent reduction in livestock invasion into the park by December 2023.

The training’s objective is to improve rangers’ capacity for monitoring and interpreting data using GIS for effective management decisions. Furthermore, rangers would be equipped with additional tools (drone, camera traps, GPS etc) to improve park surveillance and wildlife monitoring by December 2023.

While appreciating the initiative, the Conservator of KLNP, Jimoh Oladosu said: “One of the benefits of the training is to improve on how to use some gadgets. We really appreciate NCF and IUCN for this initiative. It will make our rangers better and improve the park”.

The workshop facilitator, a GIS expert, Dr Michelle Fasona said “The job of managing our national parks by rangers is usually challenging because of the nature of their work. The training on the use of GIS for rangers is a good initiative. The use of GIS techniques is a useful time-saving tool for rangers when surveying and gathering data from the field. The information gathered from the use of GIS can help park rangers to make more informed decisions when managing the park’s resources”.

Located in the territories of Niger and Kwara States, the Park comprises two sectors – Borgu and Zugurma, which are separated by Kainji Lake, impounded on the Niger River for hydroelectric power generation. KLNP is recognised as a key biodiversity area and one of the two sites in Nigeria with a viable population of lions, it is also the first National Park in the country. The area is rich in biological diversity and harbour endangered species such as lions and leopards among other rich diversity like baboon, buffalo, waterbuck, reedbuck, duiker, warthog, hippopotamus, monkey, crocodile, birds, Costus spectabilis and species of reptiles.

The Borgu sector, which is being used for tourism purpose, lies between Borgu and Baruten Local Government Areas of Niger and Kwara States and covers an area of 3,970 square kilometres.

The project coordinator, Dr Stella Egbe said that “KLNP is important as a key biodiversity area and one of the only two sites with a viable population of lions in Nigeria amongst other rich biodiversity. However, the challenges of unsustainable anthropogenic practices threaten both the habitats and species within the park. With the support of the IUCN SOS funded by the EU, the NCF implementing these series of trainings and other activities to improve the conditions of the National Parks, improve rangers’ capacity and promote sustainable activities in communities surrounding the National Parks”.

Deforestation, illegal hunting, uncontrolled or indiscriminate bush burning, illegal grazing, unsustainable farming and human-wildlife conflict are identified problems the park is facing.

One of the participants at the training, Yusuf Ibrahim said: “The GIS training was very interesting and will go a long way in helping our work. Training and re-training will help us very well. This GIS training will help us locate on the map how to determine the location of some animals”.

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