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Report of the survey of african forest elephants (Loxodonta Africana cyclotis) in ifon game reserve, ondo state, nigeria. By


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REPORT OF THE SURVEY OF AFRICAN FOREST ELEPHANTS (Loxodonta Africana cyclotis) IN IFON GAME RESERVE, ONDO STATE, NIGERIA.

By

Alade Adeleke, Mahmud Adedayo and Ekaette Ukobong Okon



Background:

Nigeria’s rich and highly diverse flora, fauna and habitats are declining both in quality and quantity due to unsustainable exploitation and mis-use. Consequently, more than 90% its rich and diverse lowland rainforest and its associated forest-dwelling and dependent fauna had been lost. The remaining forest relics, though now highly fragmented still form the natural habitat of very important wildlife species, especially the nationally rare and highly endangered African Forest Elephant (Loxodonta africana cyclotis).

The Ifon Game Reserve, a remnant of the previously contiguous forest block of the old Western Region of Nigeria was created to protect one of the few remaining patches of the rich forest and its associated fauna resources, some of which may be endemic and or threatened.

Technical report produced on the biodiversity survey of the Reserve conducted by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (2007) confirmed the presence of the African forest Elephant, listed by IUCN (1994) and CITES, (2000) as highly endangered. Thus, conservation of forest Elephants in their natural habitat and across their historical ranges is of very high priority wherever they occur to ensure the survival of the remaining isolated wild populations. And as habitats are becoming more fragmented and degraded, it is therefore essential to keep accurate and up-to-date information on size and distribution of population for habitat monitoring and providing conservation and management plans for the animal.

Thus, the objectives of the survey are:


  1. To establish the presence of the forest Elephant in Ifon Game Reserve

  2. To obtain/collect geo-referenced data on the distribution and ranging pattern of the animal.

  3. To estimate population size of the forest Elephant

  4. To identify key habitats for forest Elephants leading to more detailed research and design of conservation action plan to protect the animal and these habitats.

The Study Area:

The main natural vegetation types in Ondo State are swamp and lowland moist forests with some savannah woodlands known for species endemism and high biodiversity richness. Historically, the area that constitutes the present Ondo State has been a major contributor to the Nigerian economy by way of rich biodiversity. It was in recognition of this that some areas of the defunct Ondo province in what was then Western Nigeria were carved out in 1963 as potential wildlife sanctuaries in order to protect and preserve certain important flora and fauna resources. Ifon Forest Reserve was one of such sanctuaries so established through Government Gazette No.2 of 4/1/1951, especially for the protection of wild game.

It covers an area of about 282.35km Sq. lying between 6º54'and 7º 14'N and 5º 43' and 5º 54'E as one of the remnants of the previously contiguous forest block in the defunct Western Region of Nigeria. Its forest is now highly fragmented and fast disappearing. Therefore, its fauna is a representative of this fast disappearing forest biome.

The Reserve is drained by six main rivers - Big Osse, Little Osse, Uwesse, Omo, Oroken and Okua.

The climate is tropical with a distinct rainy season between March and October and a dry season between November and February. The map in Fig. 1 shows the three main divisions of Ifon Forest Reserve thus: (a) Ido Ani occurring in the North; (b) Ipele at the centre and (c) Ifon occurring in the South respectively.


FIG 1: Map of the Study Area


Method of Study:

NCF, (2007) and Afolayan, T.A et al, (1990) as well as oral evidences provided by local hunters had all confirmed the presence of forest Elephants at certain locations in the Ifon Forest Reserve. These as well as information gathered from local hunters, farmers and gatherers of non-timber forest products through focused group discussions, interviews and structured questionnaires informed the choice of the directed searches employed in this study to investigate but not limited to possible areas where recent sightings of forest Elephants had been reported.

We found the line-transect method impractical due to the dense vegetation, high rate of re-growth of vegetation, coupled with the low density and the rather patchy distribution of Elephants in the study area made line-transect method both time consuming and difficult to maintain. Therefore the existing human trails/footpaths that traverse the study area were regarded as adequate transects because Elephants in the study area occasionally seem to search out hunters’ and gatherers’ of non-timber forest products camps where they eat fruits of the bush mango (Irvingia sp) gathered and processed in such camps.

All records of indirect sightings/observations of Elephants and their activities had occurred at the Oke-Ogun axis in the Ipele sector of the reserve.

Recent footprints, trails, playground and mud bath site of Elephants were observed and geo-referenced using GPS handset to obtain data on the locations for mapping, while diameter of footprints were measured in order to be able to determine the age as well as group size.

Areas where these observations had occurred were recorded for vivid description of the area, as in whether, forest, forest edge, savannah or riverine



Results and Discussion

Date

Transect No.

Location

Coordinates

Observation

Comments

Footprint Diameter

Estimated No. of Elephant

6/11/07 – 13/11/07

1

Oke-Ogun

N07.11584

E005.82232

Nil.

N07.11547



E005.82179

N07.11565

E005.82219


Footprint and dung
Footprint

Footprint


Footprint

All observations were made in the semi-closed forest.

0.53m
0.38m

0.38
0.38



2

17/11/07 – 25/11/07

2

Oke-Ogun

N07.11912

E005.82652

N07.11905

E005.82644

N07.11904

E005.82638

Nil

N07.11924



E005.82638

N07.11920

E005.82654


Footprint
Footprint
Footprint
Footprint

Footprint


Footprint

All evidences (trail and footprint) were recorded in a semi-closed forest.
All activities were observed in a semi-closed forest.

0.63m
0.50m
0.40m
0.28m

0.68m
0.54m




6










N07.11917

E005.82653



Footprint

All activities were observed in a semi-closed forest.

0.68m




29/11/07 – 5/12/07

3

Oke-Ogun

N07.11956

E005.83224

N07.11956

E005.83201

Nil

Nil


Nil

N07.11509

E005.83076

N07.11506

E005.83071

N07.11522

E005.83062


Footprint
Footprint
Footprint

Footprint

Footprint

Footprint


Footprint
Footprint

All activities (playground and mud bath site) were observed in a semi-closed forest

0.35m
0.40m
0.40m

0.40m


0.35m

0.35m
0.28m


0.35m


3

9/12/07 – 16/12/07

4

Oke-Ogun

N07.11818

E005.83548

N07.11823

E005.83549

N07.11837

E005.83557

N07.11810

E005.83537



Footprint
Footprint
Footprint
Playground

All activities (trails and playground) were observed in the savannah close to forest edges

0.38m
0.40m
0.40m
Nil

2

Table1. Summarizes data collected during this survey.

Measurements of footprint diameter suggest that there could be between 5-8 individuals and probably with 1-2 calf (ves).

All records of observation had occurred at the central lowland area of the reserve at Oke-Ogun axis lying close and toward Uwesse axis in the northern sector of the reserve.

Fig. 2 and 3 show the geo-referenced areas where signs of Elephants were recorded and one of the signs observed (Elephant dung) respectively


FIG 2: Map Showing Signs of Elephants During Survey



FIG 3: Elephant Dung in Ifon Forest Reserve




Other Wildlife

Invertebrates

The ubiquitous night and day sounds of insects and other arthropods in the Reserve were indicative of the rich invertebrate fauna of the Reserve. Invertebrate diversity appeared to be higher in the forest fragments of the Reserve than in the savanna area. Molluscs including the Giant African Snail (Achachatina chalachatina maginata) are among the common invertebrates of the Reserve. The Giant African Snail is a gastronomic delicacy which is now becoming difficult to find in some parts of southern Nigeria where it commands very high market prices.



Vertebrates

Fishes, Amphibians and Reptiles

As with the invertebrates, no specific efforts were made to sample these three taxa during the survey. Nonetheless, many of these taxa were encountered incidentally as the Reserve was being traversed.



Birds

The Ifon Forest Reserve has a very rich avifauna. The nationally endemic Ibadan malimbe (Malimbus ibadanensis) rated by IUCN (1994) and BirdLife International (2002) as critically endangered occurs in the Reserve. This and earlier sightings reported in two separate surveys conducted by NCF (November, 2007) and March (2008) have led Ifon Reserve to be proposed as Nigeria’s newest Important Bird Area thus raising its conservation profile and significance. The Reserve’s bird assemblage also includes about 44 of Nigeria’s 182 Guinea-Congo Forest biome restricted bird species. The Reserve is also a refuge to the endangered African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus), thus raising its conservation profile and significance and thereby making it an important site for this fauna guild.



Mammals

The diversity of mammals wildlife species encountered in the Reserve is very high. And in comparison to other protected areas of its category nationwide, the large mammal diversity of Ifon Forest Reserve is still relatively high despite the widespread unsustainable forest utilization. This underscores the relative vegetation heterogeneity of the Reserve despite the relentless anthropogenic pressure.



Primates

A total of ten primate species were observed. This is relatively high when compared to most of the other forest reserves in the region where averages of six or seven species have been reported by Agbelusi et al, (1999 and 2003).



Chimpanzee

Two observable signs of chimpanzee were recorded within forest patches along Uwesse River in the northern sector of the Reserve and at Oke-Ogun axis occurring at Ipele sector.



Buffallo

There was report of a sighting of a herd of about 10 individuals of the nationally rare forest race of the African Buffallo (Syncerus cafer).



Challenges

Threats to the Reserve through anthropogenic activities were major constraints. Though, designated by the State Government, there is yet no strict conservation effort to protect the forest from degradation and decline. Consequently, the Reserve’s rich resources have been greatly encroached, depleted and heavily degraded (through illegal logging, illegal hunting and farming) resulting in about 60% loss of the original resources. The survey had to incorporate conservation education to enlist the support of the local people living inside and around the Reserve.



Achievements

This survey successfully built on recent findings reported by NCF and reawakened interest in conservation efforts resulting in commissioning of many other surveys that have been carried out.

The survey laid the foundation for other scientific surveys recorded in the Reserve while the project lasted through provision of basic survey tools and field equipment.

The survey opened greater opportunity for conservation planning in Ifon Forest Reserve. As a follow up to the survey, Ondo State Government approved the development of a blueprint for conservation for Ifon Forest Reserve. Following the preparation of a blueprint, the State Government has approved the sum of #100 million naira (equivalent to about $700,000.00. for long term conservation support within the budgetary plan for 2009/2010.



Conclusion

There appear to be a herd of at least eight (8) elephants including 1 – 2 calf (ves).

This population is considered extremely small for sustainability of the population in the long run. We envisage in-breeding and a very unclear future for survival of this small population. However, with the growing efforts and emphasis on conservation, high level protection can keep the population in existence for a long period and may sustain the population if no more poaching is allowed.

We recommend a more detailed study of this population and strategy to save them in the long run.

This very small population restricted to a small corner of the reserve toward the Reserve boundary along the Osse River on the Edo state side is greatly at risk and with history of last killing of an Elephant dating back to over ten years, it is possible to protect this small population if positive and sustained efforts are directed at protecting their habitat as well as development of a sound conservation action plan.

Acknowledgements

We express our sincere gratitude to Rufford Small Grant for Conservation for providing the support to carry out this survey. The grant as small as it was timely enough to sensitize the Ondo State Government into action on conservation and also attracted the interest of other biologists who assisted in carrying out surveys of other wildlife species in the forest reserve. With the foundation laying effort provided by Rufford Small Grant, a long term conservation plan is being put in place to protect the African elephants and other species in Ifon Forest Reserve.

We appreciate the support provided by the Ondo State Government through the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forest Resources.

References

Afolayan, T.A et al; (1990): Wildlife Inventory of the Proposed Ifon Game Reserve. Technical Report prepared for Ondo State Government by the Department of Fisheries & Wildlife, the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria

Agbelusi, E.A and Afolayan,T.A (1991): Mammalian species of Ifon Game Reserve. J. of Environmental Conservation. 19(1): 74-76

George, E.E (2007): Survey of Bush meat Utilization in Ondo State. A MSc. Thesis for the award of M.Technology in the Department of Fisheries &Wildlife, FUT, Akure.

NCF, (2007): Biodiversity survey of Ifon Forest Reserve, Ondo State, Nigeria

Appendix

Study of elephants in IFON FOREST Reserve, Ondo State, Nigeria

LAGE MAMMAL AND ELEPHANTS QUESTIONAIRE

  1. Village:

  1. Date:



3)A) Hunter Age Group: (<30, 30-40, 40-50,>50




b) How often do you go the forest (per week)?




c) Are you a hunter (Shooting) or trapper?




d) When did you start hunting?




  1. Do you have any special tradition regarding any of the animals in your forest

  1. Are any of them scared? If yes which ones.

  1. Why are they scared?

  1. Are any they not hunted? If yes which ones.

  1. Why they are not hunted?

  1. Which village or villages do you

Share the bush









  1. Can you describe an elephant

Tick if the interviewee correctly

Described an elephant


  1. Colour (body/face):




  1. Sounds like:




  1. Size:




  1. Other observation




  1. Where can elephants be found in your area?

Local Area Name












8) How far are these/this area from the village (hours (elephants)






ELEPHANTS




9) a) when did you last see an elephants?




b) How many?




c) Where




d) How many group do you think still Live in the area




e) How many individuals are there




Normally in each group?




f) Size of the largest group




g) direct observations/seen




h) Are lone elephants ever seen?




10) Are the areas where elephants are found

Highlands (hills) or lowlands (level lands)?



Highlands only:




Lowlands only:





Lowlands and hills:




11) Why do you think

Elephants are found (or

Found more often) in the area stated above?


Less shooting:







Less trapping:







More elephants:







Less other human






Other (specify):




12) Do elephants ever go to lowland

areas or which lowland areas do elephants use?



  1. Where

  2. When (season, Month, last time)

  3. Year

  4. Seen (number & age)

  5. Activity: doing what? Feeding on what?







13) Were elephants ever

Found in different areas where they are no longer found today (e.g. nearer the village)?




a) Where, (lowland or hills)?







b) When did they disappear?







c) Why did they disappear?







14) Do you know of other village (nearby) who say they also have elephant in their forest?

Village names:







15) a) in the last five years has the number of elephant increased or decreased?

b) Why?











16) Do people hunt elephants in your area?










17) When was the last time an elephant was shot by a hunter from this village?

a) Date







Elephant was shot by a hunter from this village?

b) Age







c) Sex







d) Where




18) Do hunters from outside come here to shoot elephant?










19) What happens to the elephant meat and body parts?










20) Does anyone keep body parts of elephants (i.e. skill or other bones, truck etc and are they used for a specific purpose? i.e medicinal, traditional?










OTHER COMMENTS


















































































IMPORTANT NOTES:

Before questions are asked, explain that no names are recorded and that interviewees are anonymous. It is important to receive this information and perspective from the local communities on the animals in their forests.

Interview at least 10 hunters in each village. These need to be people who have hunted in the past and still hunt i.e. people of different age classes.



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