Anti-Poaching in Nigeria
Updated: Mar 15, 2020
Gunshots had forced us to take cover. Face down on the jungle floor, I tried to concentrate on keeping my camera running.
I was deep in the Nigerian jungle on the border with Cameroon with one of the anti-poaching teams, protecting Cross River State National Park. Prior to setting out, the team members had made it very clear to me that the lives of both poachers and protectors were lost regularly in their attempts to protect the many endangered species within the park. Thankfully on this occasion the situation was dealt with without incurring casualties and we were able to continue on our way.
"You know it is the survival of the fittest” one of the team told me. “We have a trick of combating and dealing with such. All we rely on most of all is prayer. So we always pray to God before moving out and when we enter (the jungle) we pray as well, because any rangers job is dangerous throughout the world. Ours is not fun."
Groups of poachers often consist of twenty or so men. The head of the team told me that he and his men become the target as soon as the poachers are aware of them and that gun battles rage with the possibility of casualties on both sides.
Without hindrance from the protection teams, the poachers would eventually annihilate the precious rare animals to be found in this beautiful part of the world. The majestic Cross River Gorilla is one of the world's 25 most endangered primates according to the IUCN Primate Specialist Group. It, along with other Gorillas, Chimpanzees and Drill Monkeys would be wiped out without the dedication of the protection teams.
Having recently visited China, I was only too well aware of where the body parts of unfortunate wild animals were heading. Seeing rows of traditional healing shops displaying very expensive and highly sought after preserved wild animals had sickened me.
I cannot begin to adequately describe the incredible jungle skills employed by the protectors. As if gifted with X-ray vision and superhuman hearing we made our way stealthily through the jungle, often standing silently whilst my companions listened intently and read signs in our surroundings that were entirely invisible to this city girl!
The Calabar and Afi Mountain Drill Ranches play a vital role in promoting the survival of endangered species. 24 hours a day, teams such as the one I filmed put their lives on the line.
Back at the ranch, holding the most adorable, mischievous, baby Chimpanzee in my arms, I feel intense gratitude for the work that is being done to protect lives such as these.
Hopefully, one day, the world will be a place where our wild animals need only fear their natural predators.