Location: Okomu, Edo State
Forest elephant population: est. 40-50
Current projects: Law enforcement & infrastructure
The Okomu Elephant landscape
The forests of Edo State are some of the last remaining areas of rainforest left in southwestern Nigeria. These forests support an incredible array of species including one of Nigeria’s last populations of critically endangered forest elephant (believed to number 40-50 individuals) – the flagship species for the Okomu project. Other important animals found in Okomu include, whitebellied pangolin, leopard, forest buffalo, white-throated guenon and red-capped mangabey monkeys, yellow-crested hornbill, and African grey parrot. These forests with their enormously tall trees are a critical watershed for several rivers that drain into the Niger Delta including the Okomu, Siluko and Osse Rivers. The vegetation which includes lowland rainforest, swamp forest and mangroves with waterlogged peat soils are incredibly important stores of carbon.
However, the region is plagued by illegal logging, unsustainable slash and burn agriculture and insecurity in the riverine southern areas bordering the Niger Delta. Other threats to this precious landscape and its elephants include expanding oil palm, rubber, and cocoa plantations, and bushmeat poaching.
This led to Africa Nature Investors (ANI) and National Parks Service (NPS) signing a 30-year Partnership Agreement for the protection and Development of the 224 sq km Okomu National Park in May 2022. In October 2022, ANI signed a 50-year agreement with the Edo State Government awarding ANI with a Biodiversity Conservation and Eco-Tourism Concession for these two forest reserves. This overall Okomu Landscape comprising of the national park and two forest reserve concession areas comes to just under 1,000 sq km. ANI also signed a Partnership MoU with the Okomu Oil Palm Company that has plantations on the eastern and western edges of Okomu National Park.
Key project objectives
The restoration of the law enforcement capacity of the region is a priority. Without security, it is impossible to carry out other activities. So, there has been a big focus on two key activities in parallel: recruitment, training and equipping a new and rejuvenated ranger force and establishment of a base from which to operate and deploy rangers. In 2022 40 new rangers were recruited from the local communities after going through a rigorous selection process. A comprehensive set of all the equipment will be needed by the new 40 strong ranger force. For each ranger, this includes 2 sets of uniforms, boots, socks, hat, belt, backpack, water bottle, tent, raincoat, bush knife, etc.
In terms of infrastructure, the project will require the establishment of a fully functional operations centre from which to deploy the rangers and to house the management staff. On the eastern edge of Okomu National Park lies Arakhuan Camp. This has a complex of buildings constructed as ranger and tourist accommodation with a generator for electricity and water tanks.
In the coming year the focus will initially be on Okomu National Park and then gradually expanding activities to southern Okomu and Gilli-Gilli Forest Reserves. Key activities will
• Provide Basic Field Ranger (BFR) training and necessary equipment for 40 rangers and deploy them on systematic patrols across Okomu National Park.
• Complete rehabilitation and upgrade of Arakhuan camp including the rehabilitation of buildings, electricity and water and installation of a fully functional communications system to track ranger patrols/record field data.
• Demarcate the southern boundary of Okomu National Park and upgrade road access.
• Commence joint patrols of the waterways to the south of Okomu Forest Reserve with the Edo State Government.
• Carry out a comprehensive socio-economic and needs survey of all the communities in Okomu and Gilli-Gilli Forest Reserves to inform a livelihoods intervention strategy (that will include agricultural support, agroforestry, agri-processing, education support).
• Carry out a detailed vegetation analysis of Southern Okomu FR and northern Gilli- Gilli FR to inform an agricultural support programme, establishment of a wildlife corridor with farmers and opportunities for carbon credits from tree planting in the agricultural landscape.
• Get a better understanding of which parts of Okomu National Park are inhabited by its forest elephants so we can decide where to focus our ranger patrols.
Help Forest Elephants Today
Forest elephants need our help. Find out how you can make a difference.