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Cablegate: Balancing Development with Conservation at Yanakari Game

VZCZCXRO0205
RR RUEHAST RUEHDH RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPA RUEHPB RUEHPOD RUEHSL
RUEHTM RUEHTRO
DE RUEHUJA #2293/01 3521221
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181221Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7800
INFO RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 2529
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002293

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/W, OES/PCI
STATE PLEASE PASS FOR USAID/AFRICA/SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT DAVID
ATWOOD
ACCRA FOR REO FISHMAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV TBIO EAGR ECON NI
SUBJECT: BALANCING DEVELOPMENT WITH CONSERVATION AT YANAKARI GAME
RESERVE

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - DO NOT DISTRIBUTE OUTSIDE USG.

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SUMMARY
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1. (SBU) Regional Environment Officer (REO) and ESTH Officer visited
Yankari Game Reserve November 19-20 to assess wildlife and forest
conservation efforts in the state. The game reserve, Nigeria's most
well-known wildlife park and home to one of West Africa's largest
remaining elephant populations, is facing the twin challenges of
improving its infrustructure and wildlife conservation. Bauchi
State, which took over control of the park from the Federal
Government in 2006, is modernizing the park's infrastructure to
attract tourists and generate revenue for the state's coffers.
International NGOs are conducting training programs, with USG
funding, to help beef up wildlife conservation in the park. END
SUMMARY.

-------------------------------------
YANKARI: NIGERIA's WILDLIFE TREASURE
-------------------------------------

2. (U) Yankari Game Reserve is Nigeria's oldest and best-known
wildlife sanctuary. The park was first designated as a game reserve
by the British in 1956 and its administration oscillated between the
Federal and Bauchi State Governments muliple times since then. The
State Government succeeded in wresting control over the park from
the Federal Government in 2006. The state aims to develop and
modernize the park to turn it into an attractive tourist
destination.

3. (U) The vast park of more than 2,000 square kilometers consists
of high-plateau savannah grasslands and scrub forests. It is
located about 186 miles northeast of Abuja but because of the poor
state of the road leading to the park and heavy traffic, it takes
about seven hours to get there. (NOTE: The last 50 miles of the
road has been recently paved and is in prestine condition. END
NOTE). The park is blessed with a diverse array of wildlife,
including elephants, lions, hippos, crocodiles, warthogs, buffalos,
baboons, various species of monkeys, hornbills, kingfishers, and
bushbuck and waterbuck antelopes. The park, with an estimated 348
elephants, is home to one of the largest remaining elephant
populations in West Africa, according to the most recent survey
conducted in 2006. The park boasts two additional draws for the
potential tourist: natural hot spring pools and man-made caves,
which archaeologists believe were dug into sandstone cliffs as
hiding places during the slave-trade era.

--------------------------------------------- -----
INFRASTRUCTURE VASTLY IMPROVED UNDER STATE CONTROL
--------------------------------------------- -----

4. (SBU) The Bauchi State Government, since assuming jurisdiction
over the park in 2006, has sunk millions of dollars into modernizing
the park's infrastructure, which fell into disrepair during the most
recent period of federal management from 1991 to 2006. The Nigerian
National Park Service, according to Yankari's Game Reserve
management, did succeed in bringing electricity to the reserve
during its last tenure, despite the general deterioration in
infrastructure during that period.

5. (SBU) The Bauchi State Government is constructing new guest
chalets and a conference center. It has also paved the main access
road to the game reserve. The State Government is hoping that all
of the game reserve's renovations and upgrades will be completed by
the end of 2010. State officials expect to attract a steady stream
Qthe end of 2010. State officials expect to attract a steady stream
of tourists and raise entrance fees and lodging rates to generate
enough revenue to help repay the loans that the state incurred to
upgrade the complex. The state intends to transfer management of
the game reserve to a private international game reserve management
company, once renovations and upgrades are completed, according to
the Permanent Secretary to the Bauchi State Government.

--------------------------------
BEEFING UP WILDLIFE CONSERVATION
--------------------------------

6. (SBU) Both the current game reserve manager and the Permanent
Secretary to the Bauchi State Government conceded that the park
rangers were better trained in wildlife conservation, protection and
enforcement when the game reserve park was under federal management.
They said several experienced park rangers left when the state took
over in 2006 because state salaries and benefits for rangers are

ABUJA 00002293 002 OF 002


lower than those paid by the federal government. The state has
hired one of Nigeria's most experienced wildlife conservationists, a
30-year veteran of the National Park Service, to manage the game
reserve. But there is no middle management between the manager and
the ranger staff.

7. (U) The Bauchi State Government Permanent Secretary expressed his
appreciation for the training and support that international NGOs --
with USG funding -- have been providing to park personnel since the
state assumed jurisdiction over the game reserve in 2006. The
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has received financial support
from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's African Elephant
Conservation Fund over the past few years to carry out conservation
and enforcement training in Yankari. Experts from the North
Carolina State Zoo, with support from the same fund, have provided
Yankari with "cyber-trackers" and trained rangers on their use.
(NOTE: Cyber trackers are handheld digital devices equipped with
specially designed wildlife management software and GPS navigation.
The devices allow rangers to record key data on their patrols,
including wildlife sightings and enforcement activities. The data
is automatically sent to a central database maintained by WCS and
can be downloaded to a database at park headquarters. END NOTE).
Panthera, an international NGO dedicated to the conservation of
wildcats, also conducted a survey on the park's lion population and
provided guidance and training to rangers. (NOTE: Panthera
estimates that there are 20-70 lions living in the park and their
long-term viability is in question without enhanced conservation
efforts. END NOTE).

8. (SBU) The game reserve is not enclosed with physical barriers,
exposing the wildlife to significant threats from poachers and local
communities that surround the park. At least five elephants were
killed by poachers in the last 18 months, according to the reserve's
manager. The game reserve employs a ranger staff of 150, including
20 "reformed" poachers, with good knowledge of the reserve's animal
population and topography. However, the rangers lack adequate
equipment for monitoring and preventing poaching. The you also need
training in guiding skills for tourists. The game reserve also
needs to upgrad its roads and bridges that make up the main safari
routes for tourists.

9. (SBU) Local cattle owners graze their cattle in the reserve and
there is constant encroachement by farmers into the reserved area.
Reserve officals said there are sometimes conflicts between
elephants and farmers, when elephants stray outside the reserve into
adjacent farmland. Earlier conservation projects, funded by the
Global Environment Facility, worked with local communities around
the park to help lessen conflict between the park and cattle grazers
and farmers.

-------
COMMENT
-------

10. (SBU) The Bauchi State Government has gotten off to a good start
in upgrading and modernizing Yankari's infrastructure for attracting
tourists. Yankari has great potential, especially if it focuses on
attracting Nigerian tourists. However, its remoteness, pricey
lodging fees, the poor state of Nigeria's roads, and the lack of a
public transportation system will be major impediments to most
tourists. Continued USG and international NGO engagement could help
improve wildlife conservation, protection and enforcement practices
Qimprove wildlife conservation, protection and enforcement practices
at Yamkari Game Reserve.

11. Embassy Abuja cordinated this cable with ConGen Lagos.

SANDERS

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