Diri’s aide condemns poaching of Chimpanzees in Edumanom forest reserve

Yenagoa—The Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Bayelsa State Governor on Tourism, Mr. Piriye Kiyaramo has called for a concerted effort to protect chimpanzees in the Edumanom National Park and Apoi National Park in Nembe and Southern Ijaw Local Government Areas of Bayelsa State respectively.

This is following the increased hunting and poaching of chimpanzees in forest reserves in the state.

The Edumanom National Park covers 86.76 km2, and is home to chimpanzees and Apoi National Park, covers 64.77 km2, where the critically endangered Niger Delta Red Colombus is found, among several species.

Kiyaramo in a statement made available to expressed displeasure over the recent killings of chimpanzees in Edumanom by locals in an interview with newsmen in Yenagoa on Wednesday.

He said all great apes, including chimpanzees, are endangered.

The governor’s aide who lamented that bushmeat has always been a primary food source in central and West Africa stated that in recent years poaching has become commercialized to satisfy the appetites of wealthy urban residents, with infant chimpanzees being frequently taken alive and sold in cities as pets.

He added that the promotion of chimpanzee tourism has the potential to generate funds that could even be used to protect wildlife habitat and help the adjacent communities to the national park see value in protecting native wildlife.

According to him, wildlife tourism will greatly benefit the endangered populations of chimpanzees in the Edumanom forest reserve.

Kiyaramo further suggested the introduction of a small-scale chimpanzee tourism programme as part of efforts to create awareness of the importance of protecting wildlife for ecotourism reasons where few visitors would be allowed to briefly observe the chimpanzees without disrupting their natural behaviours in the wild.

While calling for effective collaboration and partnerships among relevant ministries, departments, agencies,
and the park’s adjacent communities to design and implement wildlife tourism programmes to promote chimpanzee conservation, he regretted that creating awareness of the significance of conservation among community folks still presents a unique challenge.

He informed that Chimpanzee tourism offers exclusive opportunities for private companies in the Edumanom National Park, adding that chimpanzees which are friendly to humans, remain some of the most sought-after primate species in the East African region, pulling primate lovers to visit the East African region with excitement to see chimpanzees in their habitats.

He said: “Sadly, there are very few places left where you can still see chimpanzees in the wild. The best countries to see these endangered creatures in Africa are Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda.”

He added that although all of the chimpanzees in these places are wild, many groups of chimpanzees have become fully habituated to humans.

He further explained that because of their evolutionary proximity to humans and the behavioural similarities between humans and apes, people all over the world are fascinated by great apes and wish to see them in the wild.

He said that in many parts of Africa, the result has been the development of tourism, with the main goal of which is to observe habituated chimpanzees or gorillas in the wild.

“This form of tourism is often regarded as ecotourism which provides alternative income for local people who would otherwise use forests for agriculture, housing materials, firewood, and medicinal plants and sometimes hunt wild animals, including great apes, for meat.

“Such tourism initiatives can also serve as an important source of funds for the conservation budget.

“For example, in Uganda, tourism has become the principal internal source of foreign exchange, and chimpanzee and gorilla tourism are responsible for 52% of the tourism revenue.

“The project could bring in tourists to sustain a community and attract interest from funders. Concerted efforts to sufficiently habituate chimpanzees for tourism is necessary here,” he reiterated.

Recall that in 2020, the federal government approved 10 additional National Parks, bringing a total of 17 parks in the country. Parts of the places approved were Apoi Forest Reserve, now Apoi National Park, 64.77 km2, and the Edumanom Forest Reserve, now Edumanom National Park 86.76 km2.

Consequently, the federal government approved the sum of N500 million in take-off funds for the 10 newly-approved National Parks.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s (DSWF) position on the international trade in chimpanzees is that in the last six years, over 14,000 chimpanzees have been lost to the illegal wildlife trade, with one chimpanzee being poached every four hours to satisfy consumer demand.

While the Niger Delta red colombus which is confined to the Apoi Creek National Park—a patch of marshy forest in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area in Bayelsa state is a critically endangered monkey whose numbers are as few as 500 in the wild.

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