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Nigeria uses former poachers to protect important forests


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Poaching, unrestricted farming, and excessive logging pose environmental concerns to the tropical rainforest of Omo in southwest Nigeria.

It is threatening a forest that, according to UNESCO, provides a home for several animal species that are on the verge of extinction, including African elephants, white-throated monkeys, yellow-casqued hornbills, and pangolins.

Former poachers are now employed as forest rangers, helping to safeguard the resources they before endangered.

Even while they have achieved success, particularly in the fight against poachers, the rangers claim that a lack of manpower and the government’s lax implementation of environmental standards remain obstacles.

130,500 hectares (322,000 acres) make up the Omo Forest Reserve, a section of the rainforest that has been preserved.

According to Emmanuel Olabode, project manager for the nonprofit Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), which employs the rangers and works as the government’s conservation partner, 55,000 hectares (136,000 acres), or more than 40% of the forest, is classified as a conservation zone to safeguard species.

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The almost 650 hectares (1,600 acres) of strictly protected area that is supposed to be home to elephants and a UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve, where communities work toward sustainable development, is the center of the rangers’ attention.

The NCF has supported forest management for years, but recruiting former hunters has changed the game, especially in the fight against poaching.

It provided a new life for poacher-turned-ranger Sunday Abiodun.

In 2017, he began volunteering to help the NCF protect the forest, but soon realized he needed to completely commit to the solution.

Ten rangers make up Abiodun’s squad.

For the immensity of the forest, they claim there aren’t many of them. Deep within the protected area of the forest, they built Elephants’ Camp, so named after the rangers’ major priority, where they alternate stays each week and plan patrols.

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A tiny solar power system and a circular chamber for rangers to rest are also present in the camp.

Adebayo of the NCF claimed that despite the physically demanding work, rangers enjoy a better life than poachers, who may spend ten days hunting with no assurance of success.

In the most secure areas of the forest, the rangers have mounted motion-detecting cameras on trees to record footage of wildlife and poachers.

One elephant is seen picking up food with its trunk near a tree at night in a 24-second video taken in May.

Although poaching in the forest has not been completely eradicated, rangers claim they have made tremendous progress.

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According to them, the biggest problems right now are the illegal settlements of loggers and cocoa farmers who are expanding in the conservation areas, where doing so is prohibited.

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