By Nehi Igbinijesu.
Yankari National Park is a wildlife park located in Bauchi State, Nigeria. Its sprawl of about 2,244 sq.km of Guinea Savannah is home to variants of natural warm springs, flora and fauna making it an extremely virile spot for tourists.
Yankari was designated as Nigeria’s largest national park in 1991, having opened its gates to the public as a games reserve on December 1, 1962.
The astute support to create the national park was given by the then Northern Nigeria Minister for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Alhaji Muhammadu Ngeleruma after a visit he paid to another games reserve in Sudan as far back as 1934. However, his recommendations did not get approved until 1956 when the government saw need to protect large numbers of wild animals in their natural habitat in the Yankari area. Yankari was carved out in 1957 as a Games Preservation area and constituted as Bauchi Native Authority Forest Reserve.
Yankari has a vast wealth of wildlife resources. The park is a haven for about 50 species of mammal including the African Bush Elephant, Olive Baboon, Patas Monkey, Tantalus Monkey, Roan Antelope, Western Hartebeest, Lion, African Buffalo, Waterbuck, Bushbuck and Hippopotamus. It also has a large and diverse freshwater ecosystem around its freshwater springs and the Gaji River.
350 species of bird can be found in the Park, of which 130 are resident, 50 are Palaearctic migrants and the rest are intra-African migrants that move locally within Nigeria. These birds include the Saddle-billed stork, White-rumped Vulture, Guinea fowl, Grey hornbill and the Cattle Egret.Yankari is recognized as having one of the largest populations of elephants in West Africa, estimated at more than 300 in 2005. The growth of the elephant population has become a problem for surrounding villages at times as the animals enter local farms during the rainy season. The elephants have also stripped the park of many of its baobab trees.
The Park is also home to a lot of hills and gorges and holds archaeological evidence of human settlement of up to 200 years prior to the establishment of the Park.
The Wikki Camp is the tourist centre of the Park. Named after the nearby Wikky Warm Spring, the camp’s 110-room lodging, museum, state-of –the art conference centre and restaurant offers visitors a wonderful retreat away from the hassles of urban life. The camp also provides two Safari trips daily.
So when next you want to be with Mother Nature, think Bauchi…think Yankari.