A herd of hundreds of elephants that have returned to north-east Nigeria causing extensive damage to food crops.
According to Guardian UK report on Monday, November 9, the animals may also be under threat from Boko Haram and villagers may resort to poaching due to the destruction of crops from their activities.
More than 250 elephants ventured last month from Chad and Cameroon into Kala-Balge, a district in Nigeria’s Borno state.
The presence of numerous village populations in Borno had for years deterred the elephants, who are usually wary of human settlements.
But more than a decade of the insurgency by Boko Haram in north-east Nigeria, many villagers in Kala-Balge and across the region flee to refugee camps or urban centres, leaving much of the rural expanse emptied and more appealing to the elephants.
It was further gathered that a population of about 8,000 internally displaced people remains in Kala-Balge, mostly residing in camps, and there are growing concerns over hunger.
Babagana Shettima, a community leader in Kala-Balge, said the presence of the elephants has compounded misery in the district.
“The situation of the elephants here is very terrible, they are really destroying our farmlands,” he said. “People here are already suffering, they are living in the camps or in the bush, they have to farm to eat and this is the only source for their food. If the elephants destroy it, they will not have any food to eat.”
He said residents and refugees in Kala-Balge had resorted to walking 12 miles to the Cameroonian border to buy food.
“Last month we received some food aid from the government; but he had to come by helicopter because the roads are completely cut off.”
The elephants in north-east Nigeria make up one of the last great herds in west Africa. Their first sighting in the region since the Boko Haram insurgency began was in December last year.
“It is a very dangerous area for the elephants because of issues with the local populations; and because there is still fighting,” said Peter Ayuba, the director of forests and wildlife in Borno state.
“The elephants shouldn’t ordinarily be in Kala-Balge; but the main issue is the conflict. The people need a place to live and farm their crops; and the elephants also need peaceful areas to travel. Also, the insecurity has affected their migratory routes because before there were many settlements of people; but everywhere is now open.”
Before the herd arrived in October, Nigeria was estimated to have an elephant population of only about 300; scattered in small groups across the country; and highly vulnerable to poaching for their ivory.
The Boko Haram insurgency in the Lake Chad area has forced 2 million people to flee their homes; and caused tens of thousands of deaths.