Wildlife Poaching in Nigeria National Parks: A Case Study of Cross River National Park  

Jacob D.E.1 , Nelson I.U.2 , Udoakpan U.I.1 , Etuk U.B.1
1. Forestry and Wildlife Department, University of Uyo, Nigeria
2. Biodiversity Preservation Center, Uyo, Nigeria
Author    Correspondence author
International Journal of Molecular Ecology and Conservation, 2015, Vol. 5, No. 4   doi: 10.5376/ijmec.2015.05.0004
Received: 24 Feb., 2015    Accepted: 28 Mar., 2015    Published: 22 Apr., 2015
© 2015 BioPublisher Publishing Platform
This is an open access article published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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Jacob et al., 2015, Wildlife Poaching in Nigerian National Parks: A Case Study of Cross River National Park, International Journal of Mol. Ecol. and Conserv, Vol.5, No.4 1-7 (doi: 10.5376/ijmec.2015.05.0004)


This study examined the rate of wildlife poaching in Cross River National Park (CRNP) and the park’s management strategies in combating it. The primary data was collected using structured questionnaires and Semi-Structured Interviews (SSI). A total of 90 enumerator–administered questionnaires were randomly administered to 15 hunters in 6 support zone communities namely; Aking, Osomba, Akor, Obung, Ifumkpa and Owai. The randomly selected communities represent 20% of the 30 communities which were easily accessed by road. Also, ten (10) management staff of CRNP was sampled to elicit information on the management strategies of the park to combat poaching in the support zone communities. The secondary data was collected from related literatures, journals and bulletin. Data obtained were analyzed using descriptive statistical technique. The result indicated that majority of the respondents were married (46.67%), literate (85.57%), within the age class of 24-59 years (86.67%), mostly full time hunters (45.56%) and 37.78% earned between ₦4,000 and ₦7,000 weekly. Also, majority of the respondents were aware of the park existence (68.69%), park legislation (71.55%) and the reason for its creation to include conservation (70.48%). Moreover, 74.4% of the respondents in the support zone communities hunt with their guns, 70.00% hunted in group preferring a group size of 3-4 people and elephant was the least preferred animal to hunt (7.3%). However, 64.44% of the respondents hunted on a daily basis, 33.33% killed 3-4 animals/day and 43% of the respondents trek 10km and above during their hunting expedition. Furthermore, 70% of the interviewed park staff agreed that the rate of poaching in the area was high and 50% of them identified Anti-poaching patrols as the most effective way to check poaching in the area. Involvement of the support zone communities in the management of the park is recommended to ensure the goal of establishing the park.

Cross River National Park; Nigeria; Wildlife poaching; Conservation

Wildlife conservation efforts in the sub-Saharan Africa countries stemmed from the concern over the depletion and in some cases, near or complete extinction of some large game species in the region (Ajayi, 1979; Anadu et al., 1988; Asibey and Child, 1991; Davey, 1993). Moreover, illegal trade and trafficking in endangered fauna and flora species, fueled mostly by the growing demand for exotic plants and animals worldwide had also resulted in biodiversity depletion in the region (Eniang, 2001). As a conservation measure, protected areas with stringent laws were designed to prevent all exploitation of wildlife within the protected areas, and to restrict resources utilization were established. The Cross River National Park in Nigeria like any other protected area also witnessed strong resistance by host communities on the park policy of restricting their free access to the natural resources within the park environment (Ibor, 2003; Jacob, 2008; Ogogo et al., 2010; Jacob and Ogogo, 2011). The consequences of these resistances have manifested in the form of conflicts between the park authorities and the indigenous peoples of the support zone communities. The rich diverse ecosystems of the park contain wood, honey, beeswax, building poles, fodder resources, fruits and medicinal plants (Sunderlin et al., 2005; Giliba et al., 2010). Economically, disadvantaged rural communities also depend on wildlife-based products such as bushmeat, fur, skin, claws, horns and teeth as sources of income and/or protein (Carperneto and Fusari, 2000; Pattiselanno, 2004; Bennett et al., 2006; Carpaneto et al., 2007). However, the park management has found it increasingly difficult to meet the economic and developmental needs of their host communities to ensure the conservation of the park’s natural resources (Roe and Elliot, 2005; Ogogo et al., 2010; Jacob and Ogogo, 2011).
From the perspective of wildlife conservation, uncomfortable interactions between any protected area and its local communities are usually perpetuated through illegal hunting activities (Wilfred, 2010; Wilfred and McColl, 2010; Jacob et al., 2013) referred to as wildlife poaching, since they are carried out in violation of the laws of the park. Wildlife poaching is often unsustainable and is mainly done to harvest protein (bushmeat), although it also involves small-scale trade of by-products including skins, horns, teeth, claws, etc. (Taylor and Dunstone, 1996; Alvard et al., 1997; Wilfred and McColl, 2010). A variety of different income-based factors behind bushmeat exploitation have been put forward, apparently by location-specific and thus it operates at a local scale. For example, Coad (2007) found that relatively rich households dominated the commercial use of wildlife in Dibouka and Kouagna villages in Gabon, precisely because they had the resources necessary to invest in the bushmeat exploitation while in the forest communities of Nigeria, the inability to afford alternative source of protein (beef) and the need to supplement household income has encourage bushmeat exploitation (Asibey and Child, 1990; Asibey, 1987; Ashley, 2000). This paper therefore assess the need and strategies of the local hunters in the light of wildlife poaching in the park to ascertain priority options for both improving their livelihoods and minimizing pressure on wildlife resources in the protected area.
1 Materials and Method
1.1 Study Area
The study was carried out in the Oban Division of the Cross River National Park (CRNP). CRNP is located between longitude 5o05' - 6o 29' Nand latitude 8o15'- 9o30' E (Figure 1). It covers a total land area of 4000km2 and subdivided into Okwango Division (1000km2) and Oban Division (3000km2). The Oban division is contiguous with korup National Park in the Republic of Cameroon (WWF, 1989a; Ezealor, 2002). On the east, it is bounded by Takamanda Forest Reserve, also in Cameroon.

Figure 1 Location of Cross River National Park and its support zone communities

The Vegetation of the area is of the Lowland Rainforest with a strong seasonal climate. It is characterized by two distinct tropical moist climates, which are the rainy and dry seasons. The rainy season begins from April – November with a double peak regime in June – July and September – October. Annual rainfall decreases from North - South across the Park. Average daily temperature ranges from 14oC
-23o C. The dry season starts from November – March or early April, with the driest and hottest period in March. The area also experiences the harmattan weather from December – February during which night temperatures are low (CRNP Tourist Guide Handbook, 2001).
The geology of the CRNP consists of old sedimentary rocks, as well as some granite intrusions which are exposed at the surface (WWF, 1989b). The soils which are from old metamorphic rocks are sandy, infertile and rocky, shallow and erodible on steeper slopes (WWF, 1989b). The terrain of the Oban Division indicates that the southern part of the area ranges from gently undulating to rolling plane with occasional isolated hills. The area is drained by Kwa and Ikpan Rivers on the South, on the North, and by the tributaries of the Cross River (WWF, 1989b).
Occupation of the people in the study area is predominantly farming and trading in forest resource, which serves as their basic earning activity. The people belong predominantly to the Ejaham tribe. Most of them are Christians, while some believe in traditional worship.
1.2 Method of Data Collection
The data for this study was derived from Primary and Secondary sources. The Primary data were collected using structured questionnaires and Semi-Structured Interviews (SSI). A total of 90 enumerator- administered questionnaires were randomly administered to 15 hunters in 6 support zone communities namely; Aking, Osomba, Akor, Obung, Ifumkpa and Owai. The randomly selected communities represent 20% of the 30 communities which were easily accessed by road. Also ten (10) management staff of CRNP was sampled to elicit information on the management strategy of the park to combat poaching in the area. The secondary data was collected from related literatures, journals and bulletin.
1.3 Methods of data analysis
The analytical design that was used in achieving the objectives of this study was a Descriptive statistics such as percentages, pie chart, bar chart and frequency.
2 Results
2.1 Demographic characteristics of respondents
The result obtained in Figure 2 indicates that all of the respondents were males (100%), majority belonged to the age class of 31-35yerars (28.89%) and 46.67% of the respondents were married. Also, 45.56% had primary education and only 12.22% of respondents had obtained a tertiary education. Occupationally, 45.56% of the respondents were full time hunters, others also combined farming (26.67%) and trading (17.78%), while 10.00% of the respondents were also engaged in other activities for their livelihood. Moreover, the result revealed that 23.33% of the sampled population had a monthly income of above ₦10,000, 32.22% earn between ₦8000 and ₦10000, 37.78% earn between ₦4000 and ₦7000, while only 6.67% earn less than ₦3000 from the sale of wildlife products in the study areas (Figure2).


Figure 2 Demographic characteristics of the respondents

2.2 Hunting methods and wildlife species commonly hunted
Figure 3 shows that 74.4% of the respondents in the support zone communities hunt with their guns, 20.1% set traps, and 15.5% of the respondents used wire snare during their hunting expedition.Also, 70.00% of the respondents hunted in group with majority preferring a group size of 3-4 people (Figure 4). Moreover, majority (21.20%) of the respondent engaged in the hunt for porcupine, and 17.7% in the hunt for deer and grasscutter respectively, while he least hunted game animal was elephant (7.3%) in Figure 5.


Figure 3 Hunting methods and size of hunters


Figure 4 Group hunting size in CRNP (Oban Division)


Figure 5 Species regularly hunted in CRNP (Oban Division)

2.3 Hunters schedule and animals caught
The result in Figure 6 indicates that majority (64.44%) of the respondents preferred carrying out their hunting expedition on a daily basis, followed by those who preferred hunting weekly (17.78%) while, 4.44% of respondents preferred hunting every two weeks. Also, majority (33.33%) of the respondents killed 3-4 animals/day, 30% killed 1-2 animals/day, 21.11% of the respondent killed 5-6 animals/day, and 15.56% of the respondent killed up to 7 animals and above per day. Moreover, 43% of the respondents trek 10km and above during their hunting expedition and the only 2% of the respondents had to trek up to 2km during hunting (Figure 7).


Figure 6 Hunters schedule of activities and animals caught


Figure 7 Distance covered during hunting expedition

2.4 Awareness and Park rules violation
The result in Figure 8 shows the respondents level of awareness and violation of the park's rules and regulation. Majority of the respondents (65.56%) claimed being aware of the parks rules and regulation on wildlife poaching and the penalties for offenders while 34.44% claimed being ignorant of the parks rules and regulation. Also, 71.7% of the respondents accepted violating the parks rules and 28.3% claimed to obey the parks rules and regulations.


Figure 8 Respondent’s Awareness and violation of Park rules

2.5 Level of poaching and combative measures
Data collected from management staff of CRNP indicates that there is a high rate of poaching within the park (Figure 9). Majority (70.0%) of the respondents agreed that the rate of poaching in the area is high, while the remaining 30.0% of the respondents obliged to low poaching in the area. As a combative measure to curb the high rate of poaching in the park, 50.0% of the respondents identified Anti-poaching patrols as the most effective way to check poaching in the area, 30.0% were of the views that effective conservation education will help in combating the rate of poaching in the area, while 20.0% of the respondents argued that using Arrest and prosecution as a measure to check poaching in the park in the most effective measure.


Figure 9 Level of poaching and combative measures

3 Discussions
The future of the country’s rich biodiversity is under threat from increasing degradation of the ecosystem, stemming primarily from economic motives. Over 90% of the rural populace depends on the forest resources for their livelihoods and economic survival (Ogogo, 2008). This is evident in the types of species commonly hunted by community members in the Oban Division of the (CRNP). As indicated in Figure 5, porcupine are the most hunted wildlife species in the area, thus posing a threat to the its population survival including grasscutter and deer. This opinion is also shared by the park management who claimed there is a high rate of poaching in the area (Figure 9). However, there seems to be a decrease and a drop of primate hunting in the study area including elephant hunting which had generated worldwide attention to the poaching activities in the area in the past (Eniang, 2001; Ebin, 2001; Eniang and Ebin, 2002).
The use of guns and fire arms during hunting expedition indicates the sophistication of the hunting techniques used by poachers in the area. This is very dangerous for the survival of the wildlife population in the park. As indicated in Figure 5, a high proportion of the respondents (74.4%) from the support zone communities used guns during their hunting expedition carried out daily with a kill of 3-4 animals (Figure 6). According to Ebin (2001), these illegal activities in the park have been on the increase for a long period of time and will continue to exist until a drastic and effective method is applied in controlling poaching in the area (Van Orsdol, IUCN, 1994; 1984; Jacob, 2008; Jacob and Ogogo, 2011). From the findings, it is obvious that the rate of animals hunted is high. This may be attributed to the high protein demand of rural communities and also for economic purposes. Majority of the rural community’s members depends largely on the forest resources for sustenance and livelihood (Gadgil, 1992; Pimpert and Pretty, 1995; Waugh, 1995; Andrew-Essien and Bisong, 2009; 2012). Apart from the high hunting rate, there is serious encroachment into the protected areas for unsustainable agricultural practices. This situation has raised deforestation rates within the park area. This could be attributed to the increasing population and the need for fertile land within the support zone communities for agricultural activities, thus agreeing with the observation of Bode (2006) that there exist a relationship between population growth and resource conservation.
Consequently, the management of Cross River National Park is not relenting in its efforts to combat the rate of poaching and habitat degradation in the Park. Accordingly, regular anti-poaching patrols is being carried out in the area including conservation education on the need to protect the flora and fauna of the area and also the need for the support zone communities to help in checking the rate of poaching in the area. Other methods include arrest and prosecution of offenders which seldom result in conflict between the park and its support zone communities mostly due to contests over resources and access to them (Fisher and Ury, 1985; Imeh and Adebobola, 2005).
3.1 Conclusion and Recommendation
The provision of sound and realistic approaches for effective conservation of natural resources, particularly where the sources of livelihood of rural communities are affected have been a serious challenge to many countries. The establishment of a protected area in any ecologically endowed resource environment should be aimed at benefiting the indigenous people and subsequently, the world at large through sustainable natural resources utilization. However, the conservation effort in CRNP is under threat as wildlife poaching in on the increase in the area because the support zone communities have been deprived of their livelihood. Hunger, sickness, unemployment and poverty are the conditions that characterize the current situations in these areas. The feeling of marginalization, loss of source of livelihood and lack of concern from the park authorities are also factors that trigger the incidences of conflicts between the park and its support zone communities. Although, the park management has taken steps in combating wildlife poaching in the park, it is recommended that the success of natural resource conservation can only be achieved by adequately involving the local people in the management of the park resources. For conservation schemes to be laudable in the area, it is vital that such schemes take into consideration the peculiar cultural traits of the people in which they are established. This would include conservation education, infrastructure, funding and man-power availability.
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