By Anietie Akpan, The Guardian Nigeria
To reinforce the ongoing protection efforts in Yankari Game Reserve, conservationists have fitted six elephants with GPS/Satellite Collars to help provide real-time tracking of elephant herds.
Country Director, Nigeria Programme, Wild Conservation Society (WCS), Mr. Andrew Dunn said the device will allow ranger teams to shadow the elephants at all times and alert the reserve manager whenever elephants are in danger or stray outside the reserve.
Dunn in a statement said at the weekend said “since 2014 Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi State contains Nigeria’s largest elephant population, currently estimated at around 100 and has been co-managed through a partnership agreement between WCS and Bauchi State Government, with funding support from US Fish and Wildlife Service, Elephant Crisis Fund and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
According to him, with the focused law enforcement efforts and community engagement programmes, no elephant has been killed in Yankari since 2015, bringing previously high poaching levels down to a very low level over the past four years, with zero poaching incidences detected.
“Once widespread across Nigeria including rainforest and savanna, elephants are now restricted to a few protected areas in the country as elephants are threatened by habitat loss, human-elephant conflict and particularly by the illegal ivory trade. Elephants have been extensively persecuted in Nigeria for their ivory tusks for many years, highly-prized for traditional purposes and to supply the lucrative export market to Asia”, the statement added.
Also, the Regional Director of WCS’s Sudano-Sahel Programme, Dr. Paul Elkan said: “Real-time monitoring of elephant populations is essential for their protection by providing location data which is used to optimize deployment of anti-poaching and other wildlife protection interventions and also to help improve efforts to reduce elephant human conflict with neighboring communities”.
He added that at various protected area landscape sites across Africa where WCS is engaged in management partnerships with Governments and local communities, they have employed use of GPS/satellite collars, combined with ground based anti poaching patrols, aerial monitoring, and real time law enforcement management to secure elephant populations.
For WCS Landscape Director in Yankari Game Reserve and Resort, Nachamada Geoffrey, “the use of satellite collars has also allowed us to react more quickly whenever elephants stray outside the reserve, and has helped reduce levels of crop damage and human-elephant conflict.
We manage the information on elephant locations with strict confidentiality to ensure their safety at all times.”On his part, the Chief Veterinarian on the project, Dr Richard Harvey disclosed that “the elephants were in good condition, with animals of various ages and plenty of juveniles and calves. The herd is reproducing well, which is great news for the future of elephants, and for the Yankari ecosystem overall.”