Yankari National Park is a large wildlife park located in the south-central part of Bauchi State, in northeastern Nigeria. It covers an area of about 2,244 square kilometres (866 sq mi) and is home to several natural warm water springs, as well as a wide variety of flora and fauna. Its location in the heartland of the West African savanna makes it a unique way for tourists and holidaymakers to watch wildlife in its natural habitat. Yankari was originally created as a game reserve in 1956, but later designated Nigeria’s biggest national park in 1991. It 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.
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.
Yankari Game Reserve is located about 225km east of the Nigerian city of Jos and it covers an area of 2,244 sq km. Yankari Game Reserve has been described by the Lonely Planet Guide as holding “about the only remnant of wildlife left in Nigeria. With about 550 elephants, this park has the largest elephant population in West Africa. However, sighting the animals is not so easy, as the vegetation in the area is quite dense. The best time to view the animals is late February to late April.
The Wiki Warm Springs is another attraction to visitors. It is located near the park lodge and is about 200m long and 10m wide, containing crystal-clear water at a temperature of around 31 degrees Celsius. Baboons and elephants often come down to the springs. Accommodation is available at a hotel at the warm springs. The other option is to stay in Bauchi, 117 km northwest of Yankari. Camping facilities are also available.
The park also has over 130 wells, all of which have interconnecting shafts sank. This settlement and the wells were once used as a resting place by the trans atlantic slave traders of the early times. The park also has more than 59 caves located some 7km north east of Wikki camp. Other attractions are the hills, such as Kalban Hill – a flat top hill that enables tourists the opportunity to have a complete view of the park. Kanyo Hill provides a good view of the park and serves as a very beautiful picnic ground. Paliyaram Hill is a popular camp for poachers.
Nigeria is a nation of incredibly enchanting beauty. Pristine beauty and spellbinding natural wonders. From the Wase Rock to the Assop Falls, both in Plateau State to the heavenly heights of the Obudu Mountain Resort in Cross River to the vast Oguta Natural Lake in Imo State, Nigeria is full of awesome scenery and unforgettable sights. At one point, I was on my way to Abuja and while passing through Kogi State, the sights of some rock formations and the deep-green scenery of the expansive rolling hills left me utterly speechless. I could not mutter even a single word as my soul soaked in the raw natural beauty of the environment. The beauty was truly angelic and I will do anything to savour it again.
How we manage to conveniently overlook such majestic wonders and attractions in our land and fight over petty things is what I still don’t understand. Anyway, while we refuse to notice or even appreciate these natural wonders and prefer arguing and to shamelessly throw tribal/religious missiles at one another, foreigners and tourists from all over the world are silently slipping in and having the loveliest and most memorable times of their lives in Nigeria, one of the world’s most enchanting nations. Today, Abiyamo is zooming in on the Yankari, Nigeria’s most popular national park and one of the most prominent spots of eco-tourism in West Africa. Grab your binoculars and hop in the jeep. Oh! You almost forgot the camera! Ok, let’s go!
AREA AND LOCATION
A symbol of national pride, the Yankari National Park is located in the southcentral part of Bauchi State (Alkaleri Local Government Area), in the northeastern part of Nigeria in a swathe of the West African savanna, about 225 kilometres to the northeast of Jos. It is a vast wildlife park covering some 2,244 km² (870 mi²). The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified Yankari as a Category II National Park. A national park (Category II) is defined thus: Large natural or near-natural areas protecting large-scale ecological processes with characteristic species and ecosystems, which also have environmentally and culturally compatible spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities.
Unlike wilderness areas (Category IB like the Serengeti in Tanzania), natural parks are managed in such a way that the economy of the local communities are boosted as a result of the tourist and recreational activities. Do you know the importance of this? It means that our own dear Yankari is on the same level with the famed Yellowstone National Park in the US (Yellowstone is the first national park in the world), and nothing stops the Nigerian government (shebi we have a ministry of tourism sef plus including the National Institute for Hospitality & Tourism Studies at Lake Bagauda, Kano) from hyping Yankari more than the Yellowstone and also get millions of tourist visiting per year, and that will be a great boost not just to the economy of Bauchi State but to the nation as a whole. Others within and outside Nigeria and in Category it is (at par with Yankari) include:
-Gashaka-Gumti National Park, the largest national park in Nigeria at 6,402 km². It is located in Taraba State.
-Kamuku National Park, Kaduna State.
-Okomu National Park, Edo State.
-Old Oyo National Park, Oyo State.
-Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania.
-Rondane National Park, Norway.
-Akagera National Park, Rwanda.
-Arusha National Park, Tanzania.
-Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
-Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia (the largest game park in Africa and fourth in the world).
-Karkaraly National Park, Kazakhstan.
-Amboseli National Park, Kenya.
-Bantimurung – Bulusaraung National Park, Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Although the sites of iron smelting (archaeologists believe that the almost 60 Shau Shau standing shafts of furnaces were the largest of their type in West Africa) and dwelling caves in the area show that humans must have lived in Yankari in the times past, there has been no human settlement there for over 100 years. Around 1934, the Northern Nigerian Minister for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Alhaji Muhammadu Ngeleruma had visited a reserve in Sudan while on a trip to East Africa. He was dazed with what he experienced and upon returning home, he recommended that something similar be replicated in Nigeria. A proposal was then sent to the Executive Council for the establishment of a pilot game reserve in the Bauchi Emirate.
By 1956, the government of Northern Nigeria had approved the establishment of a Game Preservation Area and in 1957, a Game Preservation Area was carved out of Yankari, in the southern part of Bauchi State because it was an area that naturally had lots of wild animals that could be protected. The area was then referred to as the Bauchi Native Authority Forest Reserve.
On the 1st of December, 1962, Yankari was opened to the general public for the first time as a pioneer game reserve and management henceforth was under the Northern Eastern State Government and later by the Bauchi State Government. Today, it is run and managed by the Federal Government via the National Parks Service.
In the year 1991, the Nigerian federal government, under the military president Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida opened Yankari to the world as Nigeria’s biggest and most popular park with the Decree No.36 which designated the area as a National Park. It remains the top destination for the hordes of tourists from all over the world who troop to Nigeria for real fun and excitement even many of the Nigerians themselves dismiss the talk of Yankari with a flimsy wave of the hand. No be everything be Dubayy, Landan or Peris o! Lol! We’ve got better sites and sights right here in Nigeria! All we need to do is to explore!
One of the best selling points (no mind D’Prince o…lol!) of the Yankari National Park is the presence of numerous natural features. Many think Yankari is all about large elephants and slithering crocodiles but it is also home to numerous natural warm springs that you will find to be absolutely delightful and nothing can make your day as interesting as taking a dip in one of the blue, crystal-clear and glassy warm springs of the Yankari. As a result of the geothermal activity in the park (reminds me of Reykjavik), there is a total of four natural warm springs in Yankari AND one cool water spring. These are:
-WIKKI SPRING: The largest of the four and has a depth of 1.9 metres and is 13 metres in its width and 200 metres long. At all times, the Wikki Spring has a constant temperature of 31.1oC and every single day, it releases 21 million litres of water into the Gaji River, the lifeblood of the park. The Wikki Spring is one of the most popular spots at the Yankari National Park. The Wikki Camp is one of the best in the nation, and there you can treat yourself to fantastic enjoyment in tents under the baobab (Adansonia digitata) trees in the area.
-TUNGAN MALIKI SPRING (cool water)
One of the tourists, Julie McDill said of the springs: A very beautiful place. I remember swimming downstream under some brush and surfacing in the middle of a family of elephants bathing. We retraced our path very very quickly!
The park itself is situated in the southern part of the Sudan Savanna with a mixture of grassland and woodland, with lots of rolling hills, the highest of which is the Kariyo Hill towering to a height of almost 650 metres. The wet season is from May to September, and that is the best period for you to plan your visit for hiking or just general recreation, but if you want to see as many animals as possible, the ‘bestest’ time will be the ending February to late April because this is when the vegetation will not be too thick to obscure your view. Slicing the park into two is the Gaji River, a solace for the elephants when the dry season comes upon the park. There is also the Paliyaram Hill (where you can do some hunting), Kalban Hill (upon which tourists enjoy a full view of the park) and the Tonlong Gorge.
OTHER FEATURES AND SITES
In addition to the sites mentioned above, there are other interesting sites on the national park, and these are:
-MARSHALL CAVES: They were discovered in 1980 by PJ Marshall and are almost 60 caves in total. Dug into sandstone, the caves are adorned with elaborate rock paintings and other symbolic art works.
-TUNGA DUTSE: This particular rock has engravings that are even more sophisticated than those found at Marshall Caves. But the most interesting thing is that the engravings were done in a language that no one understands even if they are legible. The exact age of the rock engravings have also not been ascertained.
-DUKKE WELLS: A total of 139 wells, all interlinked as part of a complex water storage system. Some of these features were used as resting points by traders who were neck-deep in the inhumane trans-Atlantic slave trade.
-There is also a taxidermy museum where you can see stuffed animals and wildlife trophies such as skins (hides), horns, ivory tusks and many more (iroyin does not reach afojuba…lol!) For those who love sports, there are tennis courts and squash courts for your leisure. Convenience stores, filling stations and a police post are there, all for you.
ANIMALS IN YANKARI
For sure, this is the part that excites many most. The wild animals. And Yankari has got lots of them as wildlife is rich indeed in the park. With over 50 species of exotic mammals, you go snap foto tire. Some of these include (SEE PICTURES):
-African bush elephants (with over 350 elephants, Yankari National Park is home to one of the largest elephant populations in all of West Africa. In 1991, the number was around 1,500). Poachers kill some of these elephants and cart off their ivory for the illegal but lucrative trade. Anti-poaching teams in Yankari are poorly-trained, poorly-armed (park rangers have been ambushed and shot dead by poachers, one was even slaughtered with machetes while carrying out his patrolling duties on the park) and yes, they are paid pittances. A new police post has been put in place by the Bauchi State Government and unit from the Nigerian Army assist the patrol teams occasionally.
-Olive baboons: The baboons are popularly called ‘Area boys’ and are notorious for their mischief, especially with female tourists whose handbags are always in trouble. Hear Mrs. Aishatu Baza: “The baboons are sharp and fast. They are hardly spotted at close range but once they pounce on you, it is only a matter of seconds and your handbag is gone
“If you have valuable items in the bag, they are gone; sometimes for good.’’ So keep your Ferragamo bag safe! LOL! The baboons mingle well with the tourists.
-Oribi duikers (ourebia ourebi)
-Lions (gegeun!): In 2009, scientists numbered lions at Yankari to be a paltry 15 and cried out that the lions have become critically endangered and may disappear in a few years if actions are not taken promptly. But for where? Naija wey government no send human beings go come dey cater for animals? The depletion of natural prey and human-lion interaction (for example, hungry lions attack livestock and enraged cattle herders decide to poison the big cats’ drinking points as revenge) have been identified as major factors for the dwindling population of the majestic cats. Well, now that awa President is a zoologist, I hope the welfare of these animals will be looked into. Abi? But seriously, the total number of lions in Nigeria has been put at less than 50 by scientists (critically endangered status), lions are found in their natural habitat in Nigeria mainly in Yankari and the Kainji Lake National Parks. By the way, poachers also have a field day in the park indulging in the illegal trade of wild animal parts despite the fact that there were stiff penalties recommended in 2011 by the National Environment (Protection of Endangered Species in International Trade) Regulations. Or maybe they are waiting for all the lions to die off so that they can set up committee to ‘import’ more lions…lol! Maintenance and illegal cattle grazing are also major problems for the authorities, and this is sad, knowing that Yankari is one of the very few places in Nigeria where you can view these animals in their natural habitat.
NB: SOME OTHER ANIMALS WERE PRESENT IN YANKARI IN THE PAST BUT DUE TO CARELESSNESS AND LACK OF PROPER CONSERVATION EFFORTS, THEY HAVE ALL DISAPPEARED IN THE LAST 50 YEARS. THESE INCLUDE: CHEETAHS, GIRAFFES, WILD DOGS (AFRICAN HUNTING DOGS), BOHOR REEDBUCK, KORRIGUM, RED-FRONTED GAZELLE, WESTERN KOBS AND LEOPARDS.
For the lovers of birds and avian enthusiasts, there are more than 350 species of birds in the Yankari National Park. Some of these are:
PLANTS IN YANKARI
Well, Yankari is not all fauna, there is also some good flora there. The vegetation of the park is mainly the Afzelia savanna woodland and shrub savanna. During the rainy season, there is a substantial cover of woodland trees and grasses (annual and perennial).
TOURISM STATUS & YANKARI TODAY
Going by what is happening in Bauchi State (the issue of insecurity especially relating to political violence and religious fundamentalism must be addressed) and Nigeria itself today shows that we are yet to appreciate this gem in the savanna. In the year 2000, Yankari received a total of more than 20,000 tourists from over 100 nations but on a global level, that is painfully low, especially when you consider the fact that a lot of other national parks not even as big as Yankari pull in millions of tourists every single year earning billions in foreign revenue. There are countries that depend solely on tourism and if the Bauchi State government and other states with parks and reserves can take tourism seriously, they can power their economy solely on tourism instead of lazing around, generating no useful internal revenue, wasting time attending owambe parties, kodurosoke weddings or flashy funerals or going on ridiculous ‘solidarity visits’ over thousands of kilometers and waiting for ‘federal government allocation’ every single month. Nigeria’s riches should stop remaining ordinary potentialities. Our leaders should yarawonbrain, stop the stupidity by travelling to overseas resorts (with taxpayers’ money) and develop our local content. If other world leaders were senseless with their own local content, there would have been no ‘abroad’ for anyone to run to.
Reference; from various online sources