Recognized as a biodiversity hotspot, Cross River State hosts about 50% of the remaining tropical rainforest in Nigeria. The forests of Cross River are home to many rare and endangered wildlife including the Cross River gorilla, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, drill, forest elephant, pangolins, and a number of rare and endemic plant species.
Most of the forests in the State are found within the Cross River National Park and surrounding protected areas, including Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, Afi River Forest Reserve, and the Mbe Mountains Community Forest.
According to Mr Andrew Dunn, Country Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), in a release made available to newsmen in Calabar at the weekend, these forests and important wildlife are under increasing threat from illegal logging, farm encroachment and poaching, as areas outside have been largely depleted. Improving the protection of these areas is therefore critical to halting biodiversity decline in the region, mitigating climate change and safeguarding the ecosystem services that they provide.
It is in view of this the Regular Refresher Ranger Training was organized from 3 November to 16 December 2021, to enhance ranger performance and improve park protection.
The training course put together by the Wildlife Conservation Society, with funding from the European Union, Rainforest Trust and JRS Biodiversity Foundation, was for rangers from Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, Mbe Mountains and Cross River National Park.
The WCS has been collaborating with Nigeria National Park Service, Cross River State Forestry Commission, and the Conservation Association of the Mbe Mountains (CAMM) to strengthen the protection of the Cross River National Park, Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Mbe Mountains Community Forest.
In addition to providing essential patrol equipment and logistical support to ranger teams in the field, WCS supports regular training of rangers and eco-guards to ensure that they have the knowledge and skills that they require to effectively patrol their protected areas.
The training held at the Erokut Gate Park Entry for Cross River National Park and Cross River State Forestry Commission rangers as well as CAMM eco-guards, was conducted by the South Africa-based specialist ranger training company, Conservation Outcomes, that has previously trained rangers in Cross River State and in Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi State.
The Regular Refresher Ranger Course covered physical fitness, first aid, patrol techniques, drill, discipline, human rights and self-defence. It lasted a total of 42 days and was divided into two courses, each lasting 21 days. Thirty rangers drawn from Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, Mbe Mountains, and Cross River National Park participated in each course, with the total number of rangers trained put at 60.
In addition to increasing their knowledge and skills, the refresher training has raised morale among the rangers who are also motivated to perform their duties and better protect forest and wildlife at their sites.
WCS is planning additional training for 60 rangers from Cross River National Park in January 2022.
WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. WCS work in 60 countries across the globe to support conservation with local, national, and international stakeholders. WCS is undertaking management and conservation of a network of key protected area strongholds across the Central Africa & Gulf of Guinea Region. With its country office based in Calabar, WCS has been working in Nigeria since 2001, and currently supports the conservation of four protected areas in Cross River State and the Yankari Wildlife Reserve in Bauchi State.