Twenty participants from the National Park Service, Federal Department of Forestry, State Governments and NGOs attended a two-day workshop in Abuja from 23-24 June to identify sites where elephants are still found in Nigeria, as well as their status and threats. The workshop produced a list of priority conservation actions required at each site to safeguard the long-term future of elephants in the country.

Ten elephant sites were identified during the workshop including three national parks and participants produced a list of priority actions needed to save elephants at each site.  Five of the sites identified are small and isolated and have fewer than 50 elephants each.  Unless urgent action is taken these small isolated populations  could be wiped out in less than ten years.

Nigeria has two different species of elephant: the forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) and the savanna or bush elephant (Loxodonta africana).  Forest elephants are now classified as critically endangered, following an 86 percent population decline over the last 30 years, while the savanna elephant is now classified as endangered, with populations having decreased at least 60 percent over the last 50 years.

Hundreds of thousands of elephants once roamed across Nigeria. However as a result of poaching for their ivory and habitat loss, it is estimated that fewer than 400 remain today.  Elephants are on the very edge of extinction in Nigeria.

“In recent years Africa has experienced dramatic growth in human-elephant conflict” said Dr. Hugo Jachmann from the Elephant Protection Initiative.  “Elephants are competing with people for land and dwindling natural resources.  If existing conflicts are not resolved, and future conflicts not avoided, the prospect of Africa’s elephants thriving across their range in 2030 and beyond are bleak.  At the same time, poaching for ivory remains a serious threat to elephant populations in some parts of Africa.  Many elephants now live in small and isolated populations; if current trends continue, these could be wiped out in the next decade.”

The Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) is an alliance of 21 African countries determined to conserve their elephants whilst meeting the aspirations of their people.  EPI countries are committed to:

  • Implementing the African Elephant Action Plan (AEAP) agreed by all range States in 2010.
  • Maintaining the international ban on the ivory trade.
  • Closing down domestic ivory markets.
  • Putting ivory stockpiles beyond economic use.

Andrew Dunn from the Wildlife Conservation Society explained that the National Elephant Action Plan for Nigeria aims to:

  • Identify sites where elephants still occur and the threats/constraints at each site.
  • Agree priority actions for elephant conservation at each site.
  • Provide government endorsement and prioritization of conservation actions.
  • Increase awareness of the status and threats to the country’s elephants and their ecosystems.
  • Function as a tool to generate greater awareness, as well as the political support and funding to implement these conservation actions required to save elephants in Nigeria.

Publication of the National Elephant Action Plan (NEAP) for Nigeria is expected later this year.

About the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Nigeria

WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.  WCS works in 60 countries across the globe to support conservation with local, national, and international stakeholders.  From its country office in Calabar, WCS has been working in Nigeria since 2001, and currently supports the conservation of three protected areas in Cross River State as well as Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi State. 

Visit: Follow: @WCS_Nigeria and @WCSNewsroom