A team of young men and women have dedicated their lives to the protection of Nigeria’s Omo forest’s last nature reserves.
The forest, which is located some 100 kilometers away from Lagos, is home to an estimated 100 forest elephants.
An elephant specie type described as relatively shy compared to the popular and larger savanna type.
However, some human activities keep endangering the lives of these animals.
“Human activities, like farming is a major challenge. The elephants are scared of humans and as such they take to flight so it becomes difficult to actually track them’‘ said an animal biology researcher, Joy Adeosun.
“Removing trees in elephant habitat is exposing them. Whereby they will not be comfortable. So it displaces them from their original home to somewhere else,” coordinator of the NGO Forest Elephant Initiative, Emmanuel Olabode said.
Much of the forest is a UNESCO protected biodiversity site, but a section is also open for legal commercial activity by workers in local villages.
Although these human activities put the animals in danger, for the locals, the forest is also their only means of survival.
“I was unemployed. That’s why I came to settle in the forest. I cleared a little corner to plant cocoa. When the cocoa starts growing, I water it and take care of it. And when it’s ready, I harvest it myself and sell it. So growing cocoa here is the only way I have to feed my family’‘ said an agricultural worker, Christopher Shadrach.
Keeping a firm balance between the activities of the locals and the safety of these animals has become a major challenge for the rangers.
The survival of the last Nigerian forest elephants depends on their success at keeping this balance.