Wildlife of Nigeria
Home to Africa’s largest human population and its second largest economy, Nigeria has also retained vibrant wilderness. The country’s forest and savannah parks and wetlands rank among the continent’s most important. Nigeria’s rural populations depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, eking out a living on typically small farms, many of which are expanding into previously remote, forested areas. This pronounced expansion in Nigeria is causing habitat fragmentation and inevitable human-wildlife conflicts. Nigeria’s biologically diverse landscape encompasses lowland and mountain rainforests, mangroves, swamps, and mountain grasslands. Yet the proliferation of subsistence farms and large-scale timber harvesting forecasts bad news for native wildlife, particularly the African elephant and the extremely rare Cross River gorilla. Gorillas and elephants need large, continuous ranges to survive.
- Cross River gorillas were once common in some parts of southeastern Nigeria, but their populations have declined as farming and fire have damaged their forest homes.
- Cross River National Park, created in 1991 from existing forest reserves, provides important gorilla habitat. Some of the park’s reserves date to the 1930s, when established communities were permitted to remain inside the forest and a series of enclaves were created to accommodate them.
- In addition to sheltering the Cross River gorilla, Nigeria provides critical habitat for primates such as the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, red colobus, drill, Sclater’s guenon, and Preuss’s guenon.
- Elephants, which once roamed across Nigeria, live only in a few protected areas today.
- Major carnivores in Nigeria include leopards, as well as African wild dogs and lions—both threatened species the are declining across the continent.
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