Nigeria's new Wetlands of International Importance

Nigeria's new Wetlands of International Importance

4 April 2008

Nine new Ramsar sites in Nigeria

The Federal Ministry of Environment of Nigeria has designated an additional nine wetlands for the Ramsar List, following on from the designation of "Lake Chad Wetlands in Nigeria" announced a few weeks ago and all effective as of 30 April 2008. Taken together, the sites present a fascinating array of wetland types, including swamp forests, river floodplains, mangroves, and lakes, and all of them are extremely important for their support for flora and fauna and for the ecosystem services they provide for the local communities. Most or all of them are formally state-owned but in practical terms under the customary control of local families and communities, which brings with it in some cases a challenging set of threats and opportunities.

The WWF Global Freshwater Programme has supported the Ministry in developing these designations, with the contributions of Professors Ogunkoya and Dami of the Department of Geography, University of Maidugui, and the Niger Delta Wetlands Centre, and UNEP/DEWA/GRID-Europe has helped in the preparation of the site maps.

Nigeria presently has 11 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, with a surface area of 1,076,728 hectares.

Brief site descriptions prepared by the Assistant Advisor for Africa, Evelyn Parh Moloko, can be seen here.

Apoi Creek Forests. 30/04/08; Bayelsa; 29,213 ha;05°47'N 004°42'E. Forest Reserve. A tidal freshwater, lowland swamp-forest located in the Central Niger Delta and composed mainly of marshes, mangrove forests and fresh water swamps. The forest is dense and rich in several ecologically and economically valuable flora and fauna species. The site supports the endemic and endangered Niger Delta Red Colobus monkey amongst others, and serves as an important spawning and nursery ground for fish. It also contributes to the livelihood of local dwellers through provision of non-timber forest products, agricultural land and fisheries. Digging of canals for transport of timber constitutes a potential threat. The site is technically state-owned but practically under customary authority of local families and communities. The Niger Delta Wetlands Centre works for the study and protection of the Red Colobus and its habitat. Ramsar site no. 1751. Most recent RIS information: 2008.

Baturiya Wetland. 30/04/08; Kano; 101,095 ha; 12°31'N 010°29'E. Game Reserve. A good example of a natural wetland of the Sudano-Sahelian biogeographical region, comprising ponds and seasonally flooded land that is replenished by the annual flooding of the Kafin Hausa River. It supports a great diversity of flora and fauna and is particularly important for its waterbirds. A wide range of resident and migratory waterbirds depend on this wetland - the Yellow billed stork, Knob-billed goose, African Grey Hornbill, etc. A large population of over 10,000 inhabitants living in the surrounding villages depend on the wetland's resources for their livelihood. They practice agriculture, fishing and general harvesting of resources. The site falls entirely within the Baturiya Wetland Games Reserve, which is under "Multiple Use Management" in which state and local officials grant licences for exploitation of resources (hunting, fishing, grazing, woodcutting, etc.). The Game Reserve has been proposed as a National Park to reinforce the present management system. Ramsar site no. 1752. Most recent RIS information: 2008.

Dagona Sanctuary Lake. 30/04/08; Yobe; 344 ha; 12°48'N 010°44'E; National Park. A large, natural, seasonally flooded oxbow lake that falls in the section of Hadejia-Jamaare River floodplain within the Chad Basin National Park. The site supports over 25 bird species and is one of the most important sites in the Hadejia-Nguru wetlands for wintering Palaearctic and inter-African migrant waterbirds. It also provides a breeding site for the Grey heron and Little Egret. The lake also supports a wide range of fish species, and is an important source of drinking water for local cattle. The sanctuary is under protection as part of the Chad Basin National Park, hence, under the multiple use management, within the site free access to wild resources (wild animals, fish, birds) is forbidden. However, grazing and collection of wild resources are practised by the local population, and there is therefore a need for more stringent enforcement of existing laws. Ramsar site no. 1753. Most recent RIS information: 2008.

Foge Islands. 30/04/08; Kebbi, Niger State; 4,229 ha; 10°30'N 004°33'E. National Park. Small islands in Lake Kainji, a reservoir formed by construction of the Kainji Dam on the Niger River in 1968, part of the Kainji Lake National Park, Nigeria's oldest. The site forms part of the regional biodiversity hotspot characteristic of the wetlands in the Guinea savanna woodland of Nigeria. It supports over 180 species of birds, and there is also a remnant population of mammals such as western hartebeest, waterbuck, hippopotamus, and green monkeys trapped by the creation of the lake. Local communities fish in the pools and lake and also engage in traditional irrigated agriculture and harvesting of wild resources. The site is managed under the National Park management system in Nigeria, and further management measures include those put in place by the Kainji Lake Research Institute against overfishing, restricting fishnet mesh size and regulating the fishing season. Declining trends in rainfall are leading to long-term low water conditions. Ramsar site no. 1754. Most recent RIS information: 2008.

Lower Kaduna-Middle Niger Floodplain. 30/04/08; Kwara, Niger State; 229,054 ha; 08°51'N 005°45'E. An extensive alluvial wetland on the floodplain of the mid-section of River Niger and the lower course of River Kaduna, a main tributary of the Niger. The site consists of pools, lakes, shifting river courses, and sand banks and is inundated annually by floodwaters. The wetlands constitute an important breeding area for the Rosy bee-eater and supports a significant number of bird species that are restricted to the Sudan-Guinea Savanna biome. Local people depend on the site for fishing, collection of wild resources, and agriculture, but their activities require better regulation to be sustainable. Extensive cultivation of rice and sugarcane on the floodplains for commercial purposes encourages degradation of the swamp forest, and declining trends in rainfall have promoted desiccation. Ramsar site no. 1755. Most recent RIS information: 2008.

Maladumba Lake. 30/04/08; Bauchi; 1,860 ha; 10°24'N 009°51'E. Forest Reserve. A natural, shallow lake and the surrounding forest reserve in Central Northern Nigeria. It is representative of the natural wetlands of the Sudan savanna in Nigeria. The wetland has a unique assemblage of plant and animal species that are important for the maintenance of biological diversity. It supports a large number of migrant bird species such as the Grey Heron, white-necked stork, Green Fruit Pigeon, etc. The lake has a high diversity of fish species and thus plays an important role as a source of protein for the local population and enhances the local economy. Agriculture, grazing, hunting, and recreation are also practiced by the surrounding population. Rapid siltation is a growing threat. Ramsar site no. 1756. Most recent RIS information: 2008.

Oguta Lake. 30/04/08; Imo; 572 ha; 05°42'N 006°47'E. The largest natural, freshwater lake in southeastern Nigeria, located in a natural depression within the floodplain of River Niger. Its water surface area varies from 180 to 300 ha depending on the season, and its average depth is 5.5m. It receives perennial drainage from Rivers Njaba, Utu and Awbuna and the lake drains into River Orashi. The lake contains 258 species of phytoplankton in 107 genera and 40 fish species. Small scattered populations of the endangered Sclater's guenon (Cercopithecus sclateri) occur in some relict forests south of the lake. The lake is an important source of municipal and domestic water to the people of Oguta, but is also the recipient of urban sewage. It is also of cultural and spiritual importance to many community members. Fishing and tourism are important socioeconomic activities in the area. Overfishing is stressing the lake and sewage and sedimentation aided by deforestation are seen as threats, mitigated by the fact that the lake is annually flushed by floodwaters through an active outlet. The Oguta Lake Watershed Protection Project is involving local communities in revitalizing the lake and promoting sustainability. Ramsar site no. 1757. Most recent RIS information: 2008.

Pandam and Wase Lakes. 30/04/08; Nasarawa; 19,742 ha; 08°42'N 008°58'E. Wildlife Park. Two tributaries drain into each of the lake's arms, and the lake is separated from River Dep by a swamp which extends along both of them. The lake supports large numbers of resident and migrant birds, with about 217 birds species recorded in the area. It supports large flocks of White-faced Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna viduata) during the dry season and provides a breeding ground for the Long-toed Lapwing. The lake and the adjoining Wildlife Park support endangered species such as the West African manatee. The site supports fishing and forestry, as well as tourism and an annual fishing festival. Livestock grazing, bush burning, farming and harvesting of wild resources support community livelihoods but need to be better regulated. There is also significant pressure from poaching. A management plan has been developed for the wetland and the adjoining Wildlife Park but is yet to be implemented. Ramsar site no. 1758. Most recent RIS information: 2008.

Upper Orashi Forests. 30/04/08; Rivers State; 25,165 ha; 04°53'N 006°30'E. Forest Reserve. A freshwater swamp forest in the central Niger Delta, inundated from September to November by floodwaters of the River Orashi, resulting in siltation and soil fertility augmentation. The reserve is the remnant of a small centre of endemism, noted for hosting the critically endangered Sclater's guenon and endangered White-throated guenon, Red Colobus monkey and Heslop's pygmy hippotamus. The site is a roost for the Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacas) and also hosts a significant number of waterbird species whose distribution is confined to the Guinea-Congo Forest biome. The forest reserve has an official management plan which is, however, not being implemented, and the reserve is recommended for a more articulate management plan and management structure. Opportunities for tourism, education, and research are currently hampered by ethnic militancy and insecurity, and poaching and uncontrolled logging are related, serious problems. Ramsar site no. 1759. Most recent RIS information: 2008.