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On the trail of forest elephants in Ogun, Ondo and Osun

February 5, 2012

File:African Forest Elephant.jpg

On the trail of forest elephants in Ogun, Ondo and Osun

*Elephants living next door to Lagos

By Tunde Akingbade

Nick Wicks, a Briton was on the second stage of an interview at Environment Resources Management (ERM), a United Kingdom based organisation in their office in London. He sat before Tunde Morakinyo, a British and Nigeria citizen who was carrying out the interview. Suddenly, Nick Wicks made some disclosures which surprised Tunde Morakinyo. Nick recalled that his father, Mr. Clive Wicks was once an expatriate who worked with a multinational company in Nigeria many years ago. Coincidentally, the elder Wicks was instrumental to the funding of certain environmental conservation efforts in Nigeria. Tunde Morakinyo who has also been involved with many United Nations projects on environment and most especially the UN/ REDD+ initiative was stunned. With very impressive background and experience in Conservation Biology which apparently runs in the family, Nick Wicks got the job which entails his coming to Nigeria to protect forest elephants.

Today, the younger Wicks is in Nigeria and with the support of  Pro Natural International Nigeria, a non governmental organisation, he is on the trail of forest elephants in Ogun and Ondo states in a project called Omo-Shasha-Oluwa forest initiative.

During a meeting, Wicks who has worked in Asia, Europe and Latin America took this reporter on a voyage around conservation of forest elephants which are unbelievable living next door to Lagos!

Experts found that there is a remarkable difference between forest elephants and savannah elephants. According to Wicks, genetic study revealed that forest elephant has been separated from about 2-7 million years. The forest elephants in Nigeria found in Ondo, Osun and Ogun states are more threatened by deforestation. About 40 forest elephants are remaining in Omo-Shaha-Oluwa forest. Hunting, logging and farming methods used in the forest have affected them and depleted their population over the years. Experts fear that the elephants in the area could be extinct in five years if the problem of logging and poaching in their natural habitat continue. The African Bush Elephant (Loxodonta Africana was compared with the forest Elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) and they are found to be different from one another. The bush elephant lives in the savannah or desert area while the forest elephant lives in dense lowland forest. The savannah elephant can be found in Southern and Eastern part of African. It has a short and wide jaw while the forest elephant has long and narrow jaw and can be found in Central and West Africa. The height of the bush elephant is over effects the forest elephant is between 5 feet two inches to a foot 2 inches. Nick Wicks said that the two species of elephants now need to be treated as separate entities adding that deforestation is a major threat to forest elephants. This is one of the main reasons why the Omo-Oluwa-Shasha-Initiative began efforts to project some of the last remaining elephants in the rain forest of Western Nigeria.

Apart from the protection of the elephants, the aim of the conservation project is to also address the problem of poverty and other major social and economic issues affecting the local communities. The experts involved are using the community foundation model put up by Pro-Natural International Nigeria (PNI). This sustainable practice approach has been used in the efforts at tacking the problem in Southern Nigeria’s Niger Delta.

The forest elephants, according to Wicks are very shy, swift and intelligent. They can be very elusive and they know how to hide in the forest.

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