As a RAMSAR Site, first of its kind in Nigeria, Hadejia-Nguru Wetlands (HNW) located in Jigawa and Yobe States, and as a wetlands complex of immense interest to bird-watchers, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) led many to conduct Winter Bird Census between 10th and 16th February, 2020.
HNW complex is of international significance to Palaearctic and Afro tropical migratory water birds, with counts of about 423,166 individual birds from 68 species recorded. Bird populations in the wetlands usually fluctuates at each seasonal counts.
The Wetlands have long been known as a centre of fish production. Upstream hydrological developments driven by irrigation projects threaten to degrade this important resource. Studies of flood plain fisheries have shown that fish production is closely related to flood extent. The existing and planned dams upstream of the HNW are likely to have a serious impact on fisheries.
The ornithological importance of the HNW at both national and international levels is well known. Current efforts at conserving the avifauna of the wetlands started with the establishment of the HNW Conservation Project in 1987, as a joint international initiative to promote sustainable use of this hydric ecosystem in the otherwise semi-arid zone of north-eastern Nigeria. Since its inception, the project which comes in phases has its major goal of maintaining the natural resources and function of the wetlands.
Bird monitoring and the annual dry season (northern winter) waterbirds surveys remain one of the most publicized bird conservation efforts of the conservation project. However, recognition of the vital and central role of water in maintaining the ecological health of the wetlands has prompted the project to evolve a new strategy of establishing Site Support Groups (SSGs) in all the project target Sites.
These local Communities are engaged in communal Typha clearance activities as well as regular meetings of NCF Promoter’s Committee and the wetlands’ water stakeholders to resolve periodic water use conflicts, channel blockage, water-shortage/distribution and other environmental problems. The Federal Ministry of Environment through attempted to use a weed harvester machine to address the Typha invasion of the wetlands, which needs to be sustained for better results.
While addressing the participants, a lecturer from the Federal University of Dutse, Dr Sulaiman Inuwa said “Uncontrolled hunting of birds and habitat lossremain pressing problems throughout the wetlands, to address this therefore, the conservation project has made efforts to curb these problems through the ongoing Birds Species conservation and Tree planting/habitat regeneration programme as well as sensitizing students and the local communities through awareness campaigns and harnessing the efforts of concerned relevant local CSOs and government Institutions”.
Meanwhile, Mr. Harry Hanson, NCF Project Officer who led the team said “The conservation project is still consulting relevant stakeholders regarding sustainable control of crop damage by avian pests in the wetlands.”
Other participants are Mr. Paul A. Tersoo and Mr Abubakar Ringim from the Federal University of Dutse; Mr Ibrahim Mohammed Hadejia, Alh. Hassan Hassan from Jigawa State Ministry of Environment, Mr Abacha; Mr Sani from the Chad Basin National Park (Wetlands sector); Mr. Bala Bala from Nguru Local Government, and Mr. Samaila Mohammed Alkali from Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Kano among others.