After a Decade of Boko Haram Insurgency, Herd of Elephants Sighted in Borno

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Herd of elephants moving across the savannah close to Rann in Borno State, Nigeria on December 19, 2019. Credit: UNHAS
  • Sighting evidence terror war is abating, peace gradually returning, says state govt

By Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri

For the first time in over one decade of brutal Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast, a herd of about 250 elephants has been sighted in Borno – the epicentre of the Jihadist insurgency.

The elephants were sighted around the borders with Cameroon and Chad.

Reacting to the development, excited Borno State government on Friday said the sighting of the elephant was a sign that peace was gradually returning to the area that had been ravaged by Boko Haram insurgency.

According to a report in Radio France Internationale the herd of elephants was sighted a few kilometres from Rann during a humanitarian mission carried out by helicopter.

Quoting Co-founder of Africa Nature Investors, Tunde Marakinyo, Radio France Internationale said “the sighting of this herd means Nigeria’s elephant population has effectively doubled.”

Prior to the outbreak of Boko Haram insurgency that had claimed over 20,000 lives and displaced over two million people, hundreds of elephants used to migrate through the region. The capture of Sambisa Forest – a large swathes of land designated as a game reserve – by the insurgents at the peak of the war drove the elephants away from that route.

“Three major migration routes passed through the Sambisa Forest. These same routes that follow water sources are used by insurgents to escape military bombardment. The heavy exchange of artillery fire between the military and the insurgents drove most of the big game away from the reserve.

“There has also been intense fighting and aerial bombardments on the shores of Lake Chad for much of the past decade. Elephants had formerly been frequent visitors to the lake,” the rfi report noted.

Shortly after he assumed power in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari mandated the military to wage a relentless war against the insurgents leading to the recapture of Sambisa Forest.

Speaking to THISDAY, the State Commissioner of Environment, Engr. Kabir Wanori, said the sighting of elephants was not strange to the state as it was a normal and regular occurrence prior to the insurgency war.

He noted that it was the Boko Haram crisis that made the elephants to stop the annual migration through Borno from Cameroon to somewhere in Bauchi.

He said the elephants had always passed through Borno to Bauchi but stopped at the peak of the crisis.

He said sighting them now indicates that something which had kept them away was no longer there, adding that it is obvious that they were kept away by the Boko Haram who inhabited the Sambisa Forest.

Wanori said their normal route was through Sambisa and the capture of Sambisa Forest by Boko Haram and their illicit activities was responsible for the non-sighting of elephants in the state for sometime now.

He said on hearing the story of the sighting of the elephants in Rann, in Kala-Balge local government of the state, he set up a committee to investigate the report.

He added that they reported back to him that about 300 elephants were seen and they all migrated from Cameroon.

He said, “As I am speaking to you they are all in a town not too far away from Rann, near a body of water.”

Wanori said, “As a government, we are still considering what to do with them. I have asked the professionals in the Wildlife Department of the Ministry to come out with a position of what should be done.

“I am still waiting for the report and this will inform government decision about them. But as at 5pm today (Friday) they were still sighted some kilometres away from Rann.”

He added that the sighting of the herd of elephants had brought joy to the people of Borno and “we are seeing it with the eye that peace has definitely returned back to the state.”