Nigeria has some of the best tourist attraction sites in Africa but when it comes to wildlife, the east African countries take the lead. Regardless, the most populous nation in Africa has some great wildlife in their natural habitat it can boast of.
The animals in our wildlife parks are unique not just because they made it out of the tortuous, uncertain free zone African wilds but because they are resident in the most populous black nation in the world which means that they will never lack attention, right?
Below are the top five wild life parks in Nigeria:
1. Yankari National Park
Popularly called the Yankari Games Reserve. The National Park located in the north-east plexus of Nigeria close to Jos -the Tin city, is one of the most popular national parks in Nigeria.
Yankari National Park is the country’s richest wildlife oasis. It contains the largest surviving elephant population in Nigeria, and one of the largest remaining in West Africa. Estimated at 350 individuals, this population of elephants is perhaps the only viable population remaining in Nigeria. Despite heavy poaching the populations of some species have thrived here especially ‘The African Bush Elephant’.
There is plenty of other wildlife to see including a huge bird population, buffalo, hippopotamuses, Lions and baboons. One of the greatest attractions in Yankari is the Wikki Warm Springs. Here you can swim 24 hours a day in the clear natural spring water which stays at a delightful 31°C all year round.
The tourist centre here also provides a great base camp from which to explore the area, with 110 furnished chalets and twice daily tours with seasoned guides to ensure the best possibility of witnessing the wildlife. When visiting, the best time to catch a glimpse of the animal populations is in the peak season, from late December to late April
The reserve covers a total area of 2,244 km² and is covered mainly by Sudan savanna vegetation. Originally created as a game reserve in 1956, Yankari was upgraded to a national park in 1991 and managed by the National Parks Service until 2006 when responsibility for the management of the reserve was handed back to Bauchi State Government.
Yankari is the most popular destination for tourists in Nigeria and, as such, plays a crucial role in the development and promotion of tourism and ecotourism in Nigeria. It is also one of the most popular eco-destinations in West Africa
2. Gashaka Gumti National Park
Gashaka-Gumti National Park (GGNP) is a national park in Nigeria, It was gazetted from two game reserves in 1991 and is Nigeria’s largest national park. It is located in the eastern provinces of Taraba and Adamawa to the border with Cameroon.
The total area covers about 6,402 km2, much of the northern GGNP is savannah grassland, while the southern GGNP sector of the park has a rugged terrain characterized by very mountainous, steep slopes as well as deep valleys and gorges, and is home to montane forests. Altitude ranges from ranging from about 457 metres (1,499 ft) in the northern flatter corner of the park, up to 2,419 metres (7,936 ft) at Chappal Waddi, Nigeria’s highest mountain in the park’s southern sections. It is an important water catchment area for the Benue River. There is abundant river flow even during the markedly dry season. Enclaves for local Fulani pastoralists exist within the park boundary that allow for farming and grazing.
The African Bufalo, the largest population in Nigeria of chimpanzee is found within the boundaries of the national park. To protect the animals and the ecosystem, the Gashaka Primate Project was launched. Living in the national park are also the African elephant, the African wild dog, the hartebeest, the world’s largest antelope, the giant eland and the rare Adamawa mountain reebuck in larger stocks.
The avian fauna is very rich and diverse. The park is officially labelled as one of Africa’s “Important Bird Areas” – and with more than 500 species found, and visiting bird watching enthusiasts are constantly adding new species to the list. The red faced lovebird is only found here and the Central Africa, Bamingui – Bangoran. National Park and Biosphere Reserve . In November 2002 an isolated population of the red sunbird bush, was discovered in the 8 km2 Leinde Fadale forest in the uplands adjacent to the park
3. The Cross River National Park
The Cross River National Park is located in Cross River, Nigeria. There are two separate sections, Okwangwo (established 1991) and Oban (established 1988). The park has a total area of about 4,000 km2, most of which consists of primary moist tropical rainforest in the North and Central parts, with mangrove swamps on the coastal zones. Parts of the park belong to the Guinea-Congolian region, with a closed canopy and scattered emergent trees reaching 40 or 50 meters in height.
The park has one of the oldest rain-forests in Africa, and has been identified as a biodiversity hot spot. Sixteen primate species have been recorded in the park. Rare primates include common chimpanzees, drills and (in Okwangwo) Cross River Gorillas. Another primate, the grey-cheeked mangabey, seems to have recently become extinct in the area.
Both divisions of the park are threatened by illegal logging, slash and burn farming and poaching. Eco-tourism may support efforts to preserve the park fauna. Assisting villagers in buffer zones to practice sustainable forestry also holds promise.
4. Okomu National Park
The Okomu National Park, formerly the Okomu Wildlife Sanctuary, is a forest block within the 1,082 km² Okomu forest reserve in the Ovia South-West Local Government Area of Edo State. The park is about 60 km north west of Benin city. The park holds a small fragment of the rich forest that once covered the region, and is the last habitat for many endangered species. It continues to shrink as villages encroach on it, and is now less than one third of its original size. Powerful corporations are involved in plantation development and logging concessions around the park, which also pose a threat.
5. Kamuku National Park
Kamuku National Park is located in Birnin Gwari, Kaduna State and covers 1,121 square kilometers. It is made up of lush woodlands that are filled with Guinea Savanna vegetation to satisfy the wide-range of local species. Kamuku National Park is home to African elephants, hyenas, jackal, antelopes, monkeys, and waterbucks, as well as a beautiful collection of exotic birds.
Aside Edo state in South-West Nigeria and Calabar in the South-South region, Northern Nigeria remains the biggest enclave for wild-life.