South-western Nigeria Regional Programme
The rainforests of south-western Nigeria are of great conservation importance as they harbour some of that country’s last remaining populations of large wildlife including forest elephants and chimpanzees.
The most important area of natural forest lies within the continuous Omo, Shasha and Oluwa Forest Reserves which were originally established for timber production and watershed protection in 1925. This forest retains important wildlife species despite being only 100 km, or four hour’s drive, from the country’s commercial capital Lagos - a megacity of over 10 million people. Nevertheless much of the natural forest in these reserves has been replaced by non-native timber plantations and farms, with the wildlife under serious threat from habitat loss and hunting.
WWCT has selected south-western Nigeria as one of its Regional Conservation Programmes because Paignton Zoo has a long history of support for conservation education in the Omo forest despite the area being little recognised by other conservation organisations. In 2008 Paignton-funded staff assisted an expert team to survey the forests. The recommendations of this survey led to the launch of the Omo-Shasha-Oluwa Forest Elephant Initiative.