South South interim coordinator of the Association of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria (ATPN), Comrade Piriye Kiyaramo, popularly known as Mr. Tourism in Bayelsa State, has once again applauded President Muhammadu Buhari over the recent approval of two national parks for Bayelsa state, namely: Edumanom Forest Reserve, covering 93.24 km² and Apoi Creek Forest Reserve, covering 64.77 km², in located in Ogbia, Nembe and Southern Ijaw local government areas respectively.
Comrade Kiyaramo who spoke with travel journalists in Yenagoa also commended the state governor, Senator Douye Diri for his untiring efforts towards protecting endangered species within the state’s forest reserves through a legal framework, saying that Bayelsa state is rich in biodiversity with landscapes that provide rich ecotourism offerings to tourists.
He maintained that sustainable tourism development could be major source of revenue and employment for local communities, providing them with a strong incentive to protect the existing rich cultural heritage and biodiversity in the state, just as he appluaded Gov. Diri for placing a ban on logging and other deforestation activities as part of efforts to protect the state’s forest reserves and rare plant and animal species.
According to the ATPN South South interim coordinator, research findings indicate that with each 1 percent increase in biodiversity in protected areas, nature-based tourism rose 0.87 percent, adding that there is always a relationship between biodiversity and ecotourism, worldwide.
He maintained that: “For most other types of tourism, biodiversity contributes significantly to the attractiveness and quality of destinations and their competitiveness: for example, coastal water quality and natural vegetation are both ecosystem services that contribute to destination attractiveness,” informing that biodiversity which is vital to tourism development, a major source of all kinds of recreational activities.
The South South interim coordinator hinted that he had fruitful discussions with top officials at the National Parks Service headquarters in Abuja, saying that the service was willing to visit the state to commerce the process of taking over the parks with a view to sensitising host communities and stakeholders on the benefits of the new parks.
Apoi Creek Forest Reserve, which has been upgraded to a National Marine Park, is a lowland swamp-forest of marshes and mangroves, located in the west central part of the delta, in the greater municipality of Apoi-Oloidiama clans in Bayelsa State, and administered by Forestry Department in the state’s Ministry of Environment. The reserve covers an area of 292km. Its dense forest is home to species of birds, fish, and ground animals.
The tropical, humid climate of the reserve allows for the flourishing of a diverse fauna. They include cape buffaloes, African stag piglets, white-bellied pangolins, black-headed duikers, chimpanzees, royal pythons, manatees, and species of monkeys—the monkey cat, the great white-nosed monkey, the red colobus monkey, the Sclater’s guenon, the collar indication, the green colobus, and the rotbauchmeerkatzen.
The regular flooding and drying of the delta area where the reserve is located accounts for its boom of plant life. Chief among these are several mangrove mini-forests, populated by raphia palm, vascular plants, and such tree species as the rhizophora, the irvingiacea, the xylopia staudtii, the cercestis afzelii, the uapaca palaudosa, the pterocarpus soyauxii, and the hallea ledermannii, all of which are rare in the country. Further into the hinterland, the mangrove segues into the tropical rainforest. The flooding further creates little swamps, lagoons, and lakes.
Birds found in the new marine park include: African gray parrots, black kites, hammerheads, and hard arboreal ducks. Along the rivers, there are Nile crocodiles, and in the waters, the fish species include: cichlids, pike, and epiplatys.
In 2008, the Ramsar Convention designated the Apoi Creek Forest Reserve a wetland of international importance.
While Edumanon Forest Reserve is one of the least explored protected areas in the Niger Delta region of southern Nigeria. The park is known for estimated abundance for three groups of vertebrates, namely mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Reports say, 69 vertebrate species (birds excluded), several of them being of high conservation concern have been earlier detected in the park
Among the most remarkable species from the conservation point of view sighted at reserve, are chimpanzee, manatee, and three species of sympatric crocodiles. Analysis of the reptile diversity in the park also suggested that species dominance was high and evenness was low, thus revealing altered ecological conditions in the forest area.
The forest reserve is reportedly named after Edumanom family in Otuabagi (Ogbia LGA) which seems to have the largest proportion of the forest reserve.
The park is reportedly surrounded by the villages of Amoroto, Otabi, and Otakema on the north; Biokponga, Etiama, Kirigupo, Igbeta Ewoama, Oluasiri, Adukiri, Waribokiri, Okoroba, Fikorukiri, Enyumuama, and Agrisaba on the east and south; and Otabagi, Akipelai, Sabatoru, and Obiama on the west.
The reserve is essentially a freshwater habitat that has been impacted upon by oil industry and logging operations during the last over 40 years.
Findings indicate that hunters gain access to the forest reserve through the creeks and along oil pipelines. The forest is said to be under threat from expansion of oil palm plantations.
By Glory Edoni