Cross River National Park and Communities: Is Authoritarian Park Protection the Answer?
- Oliver O. O. Enuoh
- Augustine U. Ogogo
Cross River National Park (CRNP) is a rainforest biodiversity hotspot and region of species endemism in Nigeria. It has solid minerals, valuable timber, assorted fauna species, rich agricultural lands, medicinal plants and several other plant species that are new to science. The formal establishment of the park in 1991 was anchored on the global ecological importance attached to the region. Instead of implementing the resettlement of enclave communities and a 7 year livelihoods program, as was originally proposed in the park management plan (prepared by WWF and ODNRI in 1989), the park has been concentrating on authoritarian protection as park management strategy. Using a combination of document research, participatory rural appraisal techniques and rural livelihoods survey, the study assesses the effectiveness of authoritarian protection in the midst of economic and ecological contestations in CRNP. Findings reveal that donor partners abandoned CRNP in 1995 without implementing the resettlement and buffer zone livelihoods program. This led to the explosion of commercial bush meat hunting activities in the park (despite authoritarian protection). The paper argues that authoritarian protection alone cannot save biodiversity in CRNP. It presents the perspectives and conservation standpoints of buffer zone communities on the bush meat crisis and how to address it in CRNP. It highlights the need for the creation of arenas for finding common ground on all contentious issues threatening biodiversity conservation in CRNP, the need to revisit the drawing board and donor return, and the present and future dangers facing CRNP if nothing is done.
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- Sherry SunEditorial Assistant