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.
Villagers on Cameroon’s northern border with Nigeria say hunger looms 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 hit hardest by the damage.
Mohaman Gabdo Yahya is a lawmaker in Cameroon’s Senate and the traditional ruler of Banyo.
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.
Yahya spoke on Thursday while visiting affected communities in Banyo.
He said farmers and cattle ranchers should stop extending farm and ranching lands to fertile areas found in Cameroonian territory around the park. He said the farmers and ranchers should return to areas where they were either farming or ranching before.
Cameroon wildlife officials say 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, says 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 kilometer 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.