Situated in Bauchi State in north-eastern Nigeria Yankari Game Reserve is the country's richest wildlife oasis. Yankari Game Reserve 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. In addition, Yankari Game Reserve also supports important populations of lion, buffalo, hippo, roan and hartebeest. 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 a popular tourism destination in the country.
Management of the reserve has been neglected and under-funded since 2006 when Bauchi State Government took over responsibility for the management of Yankari Game Reserve. As a result, levels of poaching have increased, with emboldened poachers operating even near the tourist camp situated in the centre of the reserve. Unconfirmed reports suggest that large numbers of elephants have been killed in recent years to supply Nigeria’s illegal trade in ivory. In addition, conflict between elephants and local communities living near the boundaries of the reserve as a result of crop damage has reduced levels of community support for the game reserve and encourages local communities to support elephant poachers from outside the region. Poaching of other large mammals to supply the lucrative bushmeat trade also threatens to undermine the ecotourism potential of Yankari by further reducing opportunities for game-viewing by tourists.
Yankari Game Reserve is managed by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture of Bauchi State. Since 2009 WCS has provided support for regular anti-poaching patrols in Yankari through the provision of camping allowances, arrest bonuses, field rations, equipment and training. WCS also undertakes periodic surveys of key species such as lion and elephant.
Support Bauchi State Government to protect Yankari Game Reserve and its important population of elephants, lion and hippopotamus.
Yankari is protected by a ranger force of around 80, managed and supervised by officers of the Ministry of Environment of Bauchi State. These rangers are based at strategic ranger posts surrounding the reserve. Yankari is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country and some of the revenue generated from tourism is used to support protection activities by rangers.
With support from WCS levels of protection have improved since 2009 although hunting and grazing of livestock with the reserve still pose a serious problem. Rangers remain poorly paid, ill-equipped and lack training and adequate supervision. Nigeria is a centre for illegal exports of ivory and demand for ivory within Nigeria is growing – fuelled by the expanding Chinese population in the country. As a result at least ten elephants are shot by poachers each year and their ivory hacked off. The reserve boundary is well respected by local farmers and there is little encroachment although groups of marauding elephants from the reserve damage crops on farms surrounding the reserve each year, and elephants may be shot at by irate farmers in retaliation. Yankari also suffers from widespread grazing of livestock within its boundaries.