By Biodun Busari
Cameroonian monarchs living around Gashaka-Gumti National Park, near Taraba state have raised concerns that wild herbivorous animals like elephants are crossing Nigerian borders to come and destroy their crops.
They also said the carnivorous animals such as lions attack their farm animals – cattle and sheep – reared around the area, adding that Nigerian rangers attack the Cameroonians whenever they complain or kill their wildlife.
According to Voice of Africa on Friday, “the traditional rulers in Cameroon are urging villagers to stop farming near Nigeria’s Gashaka-Gumti National Park after a flurry of human-wildlife conflict.
“Wildlife officials say animals from the park, Nigeria’s largest, have been crossing the Cameroon border to eat crops. Village chiefs say some farmers responded by killing the protected animals and were arrested by Nigerian rangers.”
It said the villagers on Cameroon’s northern border with Nigeria dread looming hunger as they are unable to farm in their villages after wildlife destroyed several maize fields, leaving farmers devastated.
The villagers say Ngoum, Katarko, Mayo Foorou and Mayo Lelewal, all villages in Banyo, a commercial, farming and cattle ranching district, were the most adversely affected of the destruction.
The bulletin revealed that Mohaman Gabdo Yahya, a lawmaker in Cameroon’s Senate and the traditional ruler of Banyo has also raised the invasion of Nigeria’s wild animals in Cameroonian border villages on Thursday.
“Yahya says within the past two months, animals from Nigeria’s Gashaka-Gumti National Park have been causing havoc in Cameroonian border villages. He says lions from the park kill and eat cattle and sheep while elephants and primates ravage maize farms.
“Yahya says he is asking civilians who are disgruntled to be calm because Nigerian rangers harass Cameroonian farmers who fight back and kill wildlife from Nigeria’s Gashaka-Gumti National Park,” VOA said.
He said farmers and cattle ranchers should stop extending farm and ranching lands to fertile areas found in Cameroonian territory around the park and that the farmers and ranchers should return to areas where they were either farming or ranching before.
Cameroon wildlife officials expressed that July was a period of harvest and animals from Nigeria’s park were attracted by the yields.
Villagers said they killed many animals. Wildlife officials attest that animals were killed, but say they do not know the number.
Traditional rulers in Banyo who visited affected villages said Nigerian rangers arrested some Cameroonians for killing animals.
Zubairu Haman Gabdo Mohamadou Sambo, the traditional ruler of Gashaka in Nigeria’s Taraba state, said Nigerian troops have been assisting rangers to maintain peace around the national park since July.
“We have Nigerian army barracks here and we always ensure that our people live in peace and harmony. We always try to foster peaceful coexistence, especially at the border community,” he said, speaking via a messaging app from Gashaka.
This is not the first incident of human-wildlife conflict on the border. In 2020, Cameroon’s government reported that lions and elephants from Gashaka-Gumti killed seven Cameroonians and destroyed crops. Cameroonian villagers responded by attacking and killing some elephants, according to the West African state’s ministry of wildlife.
The about 6,500 square kilometres Gashaka-Gumti National Park is said to be the largest game reserve in Nigeria.
Both Cameroonian and Nigerian wildlife officials say the growing human presence in the park, including poaching, illegal grazing, mining, fishing, farming and logging has led to regular human-wildlife conflicts.