Endangered Folks, Chimps, and Funa on the Brinks

Ikyereve Denen

© Copyright 2022 by Ikyegeve Denen

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

More than a decade ago, fate took Haruna Bawa to his lifelong ambition. The 56 year old longed for a more serene life that offered hope for survival away from the fake fancies of Abuja, Nigeria the capital city and centre of beureacracy. One evening, after an exhausting shift of commercial driving, he received an invitation to join an old friend, a hunter turned farmer at yankari forest reserve about 80 kilometers and (117miles) west of Abuja in plateau state. He recalls instantly falling in mad love with the bush life that offered Dirty money. Yankari was an oasis of fores, with many animal neighbours and mighty chorus of insects.

Haruna Bawa said it was easy to set up residence when he arrived from vom farming camp in the eastern portion of the reserve. It didnít require any written agreements .It was just a verbal conversation between me and the earlier settlers,Haruna told Lekwot Donkat Bali. Haruna isnít alone in his experience, hundreds if not thousands of farmers have moved into yankari through referrals from friends and family, settling in dozens of informal farming camps. {The earlier settlers} gave me a piece of land to cultivate and I pay rent to them. There are not the ancestral owners of the land, these were just hunters who settled here, he said. The reserves fertile soil and climate, with abundant rain and moderate temperatures, made it particularly suitable for agriculture.

In addition to farming, settlers also take advantage of abundant fish stocks in the reserves numerous streams and ponds but were warned against burning of bush and setting traps for bush rats, squirrels, rabbits etc . Each camp has a small governing structure to resolve disputes headed by an Angwa (village head) and residents live in small, uniform houses with ant hill coloured mud walls roofed with raffia palm, zinc and asbestos. There is a pub for merriment of a liquor made from fermented millet called burukutu and meetings are held at the center of each camp, were arising matters pass through careful debates and deliberations.

But while peasant farmers have found favor in yankari forest reserves, conservationist warn it has come at the expense of the reserves forest,funa and diverse animal and plant species that depend on them to survive, there warn that yankari is losing rapidly, the capacity to support its biodiversity, mostly as a result of slash and burn agriculture and logging.

 Lekwot Bali was a very skilled drummer,hunter and a great story teller, his arrival to yankari made the women to crave for him when he was going on hunting expedition,he was such a skilled hunter that he always brought home different animals especially Antelops, African giant rat and bush pig, other women were very envious of his wife and Haruna was also aware, at night time before he goes finally into the thick forest for hunting children normally gather at his house to listen to folk tales about the exploits of great hunters and warriors, he would also be seen playing his talking drum immediately he eats his breakfast after coming back from hunting. Yankari was getting over populated by the day because of the influx of people unchecked, poaching was also becoming very rampant and it also posed a big threat to yankari wild. But amore bigger threat was coming the way of this hitherto serene forest reserve, one day as Haruna and Lekwot went for hunting at midnight, there heard the rumbling of trees and bushes but there were not too bothered because it was during the raining season a period were Fulani pastoralist across west Africa were moving south in search for fresh vegetations and fresh water for their cattle, sheep and goat.

Something caught the attention of Haruna as there moved closer to were these aliens were now sitting, there were communicating in a strange language instead of the normal hausa or fulfide that normadic herdmen were used to, this was a sign of danger and there began to rereat immediately back to their camp,from afar there saw that this unwelcomed visitors were carrying Ak47 riffles ,pump actions and knifes and there also hard few motocycles with them and there looked more like people from another country who were looking for trouble. Unfortunately the touch light from lekwots hands gave them away and these men began advancing and shouting at them to stop in hausa. There immediately stopped dead in their tracks after a warning shot from one of the bandits. Stop there you two or we will cut off your miserable heads the men said in thick hausa accent, Bali and Haruna all fell to the ground, when the men approach them and discovered that there were hunters there used the handle of their guns to hit them for trying to run, these men were tuareg men from mali who were looking for a forest to stay till the following year so that there could feed their animals to become fat before taking them back to their country for huge sales, therefore the hunters discovered that there had another set of visitors at the reserve which mearnt more trouble for the environment and all the animals and plants too, these visitors were taken to a separate camp and housed there, there were handed also some rules and regulations and there do had their dos and donít which included that no hunter or inhabitant or settler should rustle their cattle which there said was on its way be the second group that was on their way coming.

There was palpable fear among members of the forest reserve communities because of the presence of this new visitors, there was uneasy calm among the settlers but every was minding his or her own business for fear of the unknown, due to the presence of these visitors the quest for bush meat also drastically reduced because were afraid of going deep into the forest to set traps for rodents,also bush burning reduced drastically because the herders did not tolerate any form of vegetation to be tampered with whether wet or dry,this inturn made the reserve to start flourishing again because logging of trees deep into the forest was also prohibited by members of the herders association and there had deadly weapons which made other settlers to be afraid of them,this continued for some time and the number of grasscutters, chipamzees, Nigerian white throated guenons, white bellied pangolins and other widelife that ran away were beginning to increase in population but things would soon change with the coming of a white man who came for leisure in future.

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