Apart from increasing their knowledge and skills, a refresher training held recently is said to have raised morale among park rangers.
Country Director, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Mr. Andrew Dunn, who made the submission, added that the trainees were also motivated to perform their duties and better protect forest and wildlife at their sites.
The WCS organised a Refresher Ranger Training Course for Cross River National Park and Cross River State Forestry Commission Rangers as well as Conservation Association of the Mbe Mountains (CAMM) eco-guards.
The training course, which held from November 3 to December 16 2021 at Erokut Gate Park Entry, was funded by the European Union, Rainforest Trust and JRS Biodiversity Foundation and conducted by the South Africa-based specialist ranger training company “Conservation Outcomes”. It was aimed at boosting the knowledge and skills of rangers in forest protection.
According to Dunn, a total of 60 rangers were drawn from Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, Mbe Mountains and Cross River National Park, noting that the training covered physical fitness, first aid, patrol techniques, drill, discipline, human rights and self-defence.
He pointed out that, recognised as a biodiversity hotspot, the state forests are home to a number of rare and endangered wildlife including the Cross River gorilla, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, drill, forest elephant and pangolins.
Worried over the decline in forest preservation in the state, he said protecting the areas is critical with regular refresher ranger training that would enhance rangers’ performance and improve park protection.
“Most of the forest in Cross River State is found within the Cross River National Park and adjoining protected areas including the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, Afi River Forest Reserve, and the Mbe Mountains Community Forest. Due to weak law enforcement, these forests and valuable wildlife is declining rapidly.
“These forests and important wildlife are under increasing threat from illegal logging, farm encroachment and poaching, as areas outside have been largely depleted. Improving the protection of these areas is therefore critical to halting biodiversity decline in the region, mitigating climate change and safeguarding the ecosystem services that they provide.
“The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has been collaborating with Nigeria National Park Service, Cross River State Forestry Commission, and the Conservation Association of the Mbe Mountains (CAMM) to strengthen the protection of the Cross River National Park, Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Mbe Mountains Community Forest. In addition to providing essential patrol equipment and logistical support to ranger teams in the field, WCS supports regular training of rangers and eco-guards to ensure that they have the knowledge and skills that they require to effectively patrol their protected areas,” Dunn explained.
He noted that the society is currently working in 60 countries to support conservation with local, national and international stakeholders with the aim of saving wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.
Mr. Dunn disclosed that WCS is planning additional training for 60 rangers from Cross River National Park in January 2022.
By Tina Ezin, Calabar