SPECTACULAR LANDSCAPES AND BIODIVERSITY
Nigeria’s largest protected area, Gashaka-Gumti National Park covers 6,730 km2 (three times the size of the Masai Mara in Kenya) located on the border with Cameroon. The south of the park has soaring mountains deeply dissected by fast flowing rivers and cloaked in lowland and cloud forests. This gradually turns into drier open savanna in the north of the park. This incredibly varied landscape that includes Nigeria’s highest mountain, harbours one of West Africa’s largest populations of the critically endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee along with important populations of pangolin, yellow-backed duiker, golden cat, forest buffalo and a wide range of other primates and antelopes. The forested mountains of the park are one of the most important watersheds for the mighty River Benue. These act like a huge sponge – soaking up torrential rains and gradually releasing them into the Benue that sustains the livelihoods of people downstream.
BRINGING GASHAKA BACK TO LIFE
ANI aims to restore the park to its former glory and to make it a world class tourist destination. We have signed a partnership agreement with the National Park Service, and we have commenced a comprehensive programme that includes:
A PARK IN DECLINE
Unfortunately, this spectacular park and its animals are gravely threatened by logging, poaching and illegal cattle grazing. The park is chronically underfunded. Hampered by a lack of infrastructure and equipment, patrols by the rangers are ineffective and clashes between the parks rangers and poachers have become increasingly frequent. As a result, animal populations have crashed, and scientists say that within 5 years if nothing is done, the park will be irretrievable. There is a 5-year window of opportunity to save Gashaka Gumti National Park.
SUSTAINING THE DREAM - INNOVATIVE FINANCING
It is critically important that the park should be economically self-sustaining and a driver of economic growth particularly for local communities. For Gashaka-Gumti to survive in the long term, it must generate revenue to cover the costs of its protection and provide jobs and development benefits for the local communities. ANI is developing a framework for private sector investment into conservation compatible enterprises. That will devote a percentage of their profits to the annual upkeep and maintenance of the park. These will eco-tourism, processing and export of shea butter, electricity generation from micro-hydro using the parks rivers and carbon offsetting.
RICHARD BARNWELL’S GASHAKA