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Yankari National Park - A view from our expert author
Nigeria’s principal wildlife reserve, this national park is made up of rolling hills of woodland savanna and is home to the Wikki Warm Spring.
Yankari National Park and its Wikki Warm Spring is probably Nigeria’s best- known tourist attraction. It was upgraded to its present status as a national park by the government in 1991 and covers an area of 2,244km². Most of the park is made up of rolling hills of woodland savanna and is dominated by two rivers, the Gaji and the seasonal Yashi, that flow through the middle of the reserve, providing the main source of water for the wildlife. The park was established in 1950 after the then Minister of Animal and Forest Resources went to Sudan and visited the White Nile Game Reserve, saw herds of elephant, antelope and buffalo, and decided that game reserves should be created in Nigeria. On his return he gazetted Yankari, which was a region already rich in game. Between 1955 and 1962, local hunters and farmers were moved out of the area, jeep tracks were ploughed through the forest to allow visitors to go on game drives, and a base camp was built close to Wikki Warm Spring. But in the 1970s and 1980s, wildlife populations declined dramatically due to a rinderpest epidemic and extensive and well-organised poaching by nomadic herdsmen. Marauding cattle were also sometimes killed by the lions, leading to retaliation by herdsmen.