When those of us in the United States think Eco tourism, many other countries come to mind. And when we think of Nigeria, Eco-tourism is not high on the list. But eco tourism parks across the globe are huge sources of income to any nation’s economy through the tourism sector. Eco-tourism, is fast becoming a major tourism product which destinations now parade on their tourism calendar, as most vacation seekers, tired of city life, seek destinations with huge stock of wild animals and unspoiled green reserves, which Nigeria has.
The Nigeria National Park Service has seven National Parks which span across the various ecological zones of Nigeria (with the exception of the marine ecosystem), capable of enhancing ecological processes and life support systems.
According to the NNPS, the seven national parks are located in Kaduna-Kamuku National Park, Oyo-Old Oyo Park, Borno/Yobe-Chad Basin; Cross River, Gashaka Gumti in Adamawa/Taraba; Kainji Lake in Kwara/Niger and Okomu in Edo State.
Each of them has its own unique attributes in terms of biophysical and anthropogenic resources to offer to visitors. They cover a total land area of approximately 20,156 sq. km, i.e. about three per cent of the country total land area (i.e. 932,768 km2).
As in many parts of the world, the seven National Parks are on the Exclusive Legislative List of the Constitution and are therefore controlled and managed by the Federal Government being the highest legal authority in the land.
However, the federal government in recent times has been grappling with the challenge of effectively funding these parks and reaping the attendant tourism gains inherent in their effective management.
Also, the national parks are supervised by the Federal Ministry of Environment, which though has the capacity to conserve the parks for conservation sake and lacks the capacity to market the parks to foreign tourists.
Spokesman for the NNPS, Mr. Emma Ntuyang, said conservation is very crucial as it is the basis for tourism promotion.
At a media parley at the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation in Abuja, in 2010, the Nigeria National Park Service (NNPS) reaffirmed the need to rebuild its long-standing partnership with the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) as part of efforts to promote the national parks. The Conservator General of NNPS, Alhaji Haruna Tanko Abubakar.
The NNPS Boss who came in the company of other top management staff of the Service said, “The purpose of this visit is to rebuild the long cordial relationship between the National Park Service and the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation”
He sought the revitalisation of the partnership with NTDC by way of producing jingles, billboards and a national eco-tourism expo as a way of promoting tourism in Nigeria.
President Goodluck Jonathan (yes, that is his real name, and his picture, below) at the last Abuja Carnival in November challenged state, local governments and the private sector to key into tourism development in order to create jobs
He said that the Federal Government on its part was committed to effectively diversifying Nigeria’s economic base, against the over dependence on oil and gas. Represented by Vice-President Namadi Sambo, Jonathan stated that the government would be focusing on stimulating growth in such sectors of huge potential as agriculture and tourism.
The starting point in making the parks contribute to the economy on the scale the President desires is however, the amendment of the constitution to remove national parks management from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent and Residual lists so that state and local governments can develop new parks and open them up for tourism.
Using the example in the Philippines, Eco-parks are money making ventures and ready campaign materials for mangrove awareness.
The Zoological Society of London have been working on two projects in that country including an 800m boardwalk for visitors to explore the mangrove swamps.
In South Africa, wildlife parks form major part of her tourism package and the marketing of these assets is aggressive and organised, with statistical data to show the number of tourists that visited the sites on a weekly, monthly and quarterly bases.
In recent times however, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has been promoting a public private partnership arrangement in the management of ecotourism parks.
It will be interesting to see how this develops in the future.
- National Parks Week Get into the fresh air this Summer Wales, Days Out (visitwales.co.uk)
- McD: Don’t pack heat in national parks (seattlepi.com)
- Play for free at national parks (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- National Park Service Prescribes Exercise For D.C. (washington.cbslocal.com)
- National park tourism boosts local economies (summitcountyvoice.com)