A sad farewell to leading Nigerian conservationist, Professor Obot

Prof in Omo earlier this year, doing what he loved

It is with a very heavy heart that we announce the death of Professor Emmanuel Obot, affectionately known as ‘Prof’ by his friends. As the Executive Director of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF: the senior agency in the Omo-Shasha-Oluwa Initiative) as well as a friend to everyone he met, this is particularly sad. Indeed it was only a few weeks ago that Prof visited Omo to indulge in his true passion, which was looking for orchids (photo left).

His work was recognised globally, as demonstrated by testimonies from the international conservation community. These include articles (which can be accessed by clicking on the links) from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Other tributes from the international conservation community include the following:

“We are devastated by this news which I received this evening in Seoul.  We will be writing to Professor Obot’s family, and colleagues, as well as doing a web tribute, but none of this can bring him back.  He was a wonderful man!” (Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of IUCN)

“Professor Obot has been a part of the WWF family for a very long time.  He has been a steadfast colleague to all of us, and a hugely important leader for conservation in Nigeria.  We mourn his loss and will reach out to his family and colleagues at this very sad time.” (Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International)

“Sad, very sad to lose such a distinguished scientist. I met him in Delhi and exchanged views. Very brave man, may the lord embrace him with mercy and passion.” (Mohamed Shahbaz,  IUCN Regional Councilor for West Asia)

“I have been traveling from NZ to Cambridge,U.K. unaware until now of this very sad and tragic news of the loss of a much respected and cherished colleague.” (Aroha Mead, Victoria University of Wellington)

“I only had a chance to meet and work with Emmanuel on two or three occasions, but in addition to all the good things that others have said about him, I would add his what impressed me was his gentility — even in the heat discussions of controversial issues. It is an incredible loss not only to IUCN, CEESP [IUCN Commission on Economic Environmental and Social Policy], and SEAPRISE [Social and Environmental Accountability in the Private Sector group] , it is also a loss to his family, colleagues, and friends.” (Richard Cellarius, International Vice-President, Sierra Club)

“I have just learned of the recent, terrible, death of Prof. Obot… I have heard many very impressive things about him and his work. Please, convey my deepest condolences to his family.” (Jack Frazier, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Conservation & Research Center)

“This is truly horrible news.  I had actually sent Prof. and a couple other Nigerian friends, an email yesterday asking if they were OK, and offering condolence for the loss of life in the disaster.  Prof. was always a good friend, an exceptional voice for conservation, and one of the real shining lights to me, and may others.  All of us, and the planet, have lost a true ally and friend.” (Richard Steiner, Oasis Earth)

“What terrible news. This is devastating. Please extend our deepest condolences to his family, his colleagues and to the SEAPRISE network.” (Nigel Crawhill, IUCN TILCEPA Specialist Group on Mountain Conservation Social Policy)

Prof. died in the horrific plane crash in Lagos on June 3rd 2012. For more information on this great man’s life, please read the announcement prepared by NCF by clicking here.

Prof’s last photo, taken on Friday 1st June 2012

Eminent conservationists visit Omo

Group on top of Beetle hill (from far left clockwise: Ruth, Clifford, Taiye, Nick, Stella, Prof. Obot and Deni)

Earlier this year, we were very lucky to be joined by several emininet conservationists. Visiting us from the Nigerian Conservation Foundation were Executive Director Professor Obot and Senior Conservation Officer Ruth Akagu. They were  joined by Deni Bown, one of the worlds leading herb specialists and the Coordinator of the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture’s forest project. Finally,  from the A. P. Leventis Ornithological Reseach Institute,  Taiye Adeyanju Adeniyi completed the guest list.

During their visit, Deni and Prof. Obot spent their time looking at their particular interests of herbs and orchids respectively. At the same time, Taiye worked alongside our PhD candidate Stella Egbe to ‘mist-net’ using specially designed nets to catc some of the 240+ bird species present in the area. These are then  This involves   See below for some of the birds that were caught.

Both the botanists and ornithologists added several new species to Omo-Shasha-Oluwa’s lists, for which we are very grateful to them for.

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Landmark community inauguration ceremony held at J4 village

On Wednesday 4th January 2012, the Omo-Shasha-Oluwa (OSO) Partners held a ceremony to celebrate the inauguration of the OSO Community Conservation and Development Foundation’s General Assembly.

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BHL helps us to keep moving

BHL logo

Ensuring that vehicles function is always challenging, especially when your vehicle is eight years old and has had to travel over some of the toughest terrain in Nigeria carrying everything from school children to  cement. Realising that the Initiative was in danger of being crippled by expensive repair bills, BHL Investment and Technology Ltd took the Initiative’s Toyota  Hilux into their own  workshop repair bays (normally reserved for buses) in order to give it the overhaul of its life by changing much of the vehicle’s worn out components for new parts. This complements the work done last year by Mandilas primarily on the Initiative’s 14 year old Hilux, which is still working well.


BHL are currently planning to  open  a  Marcopolo bus assembly plant  in Ilara, close to Epe (Lagos State), which looks like it will provide Lagos’ only real mass transit scheme. They also already have a close relationship with Pro-Natura International (one of the NGOs involved in the Forest Elephant Initiative) as the two organisations have been working together for the last four years to implement grass-roots level Community Development within Ilara.


We are particularly grateful to Mike Prime, Brian Watson and Naomi & Guus Hak for their assistance.

Our hilux in action during community pre-entry with Adeniran Rasheed (from PNI)

1st Adventure Cycle Race to be held in Omo



Cleanup campaign march held in J4 village

Omo conservation club with Clifford, the assistant manager

One of the most visible environmental issues within Nigeria is that of solid waste management; many people drop waste of any kind anywhere, leaving the roads and communities covered with litter.

The Forest Elephant Initiative supports the activities of the Omo conservation club, based in the Plantation high school – the only secondary level education institution within the Omo forest reserve, Ogun State. As part of their committment to improve their environment,  a cleanup campaign was held within the town of J4, the largest settlement in the area. Members of the club, equipped with brooms, rakes and rubbish bags paraded through the centre of the town picking up litter for several hours.

Moreoever, in order to spread the message about environmental protection, the club under the leadership of the Assistant Manager  and teachers from the High School, used signboards, a microphone and a speaker to educate the town’s inhabitants. Whilst this is a good start, habits of a lifetime will not change overnight and more follow up will be needed to address the litter issue in the area. In the meantime, enjoy some of the photos from the campaign. Continue reading

Vultures on the verge of extinction in Nigeria

Vultures on the verge of extinction in Nigeria

“Five of the six species of vultures in Nigeria have been wiped out, according to a scholar” – Please read this  good article that brings attention to the crtical plight of vultures within the country.

Omo’s Bailey bridge repaired

Omo bridge before repair: Visitors enjoy views from the bridge, except when it is straight down!

The Omo ‘Bailey bridge’ has stood in place for over four decades, allowing access for pedestrians, motor-cycles, heavy duty timber logging trucks and other vehicles. Designed as a short term bridge for logging operations, it has stood the test of time and remains strong. Not surprisingly though, it needs maintenance, something that has often been neglected. This has led to an ‘interesting’ experience for visitors crossing the ‘hole-y’ bridge. To address this, the Initiative took on the job of repairing it using the commonly available and non-native Gmelina wood found locally, especially from previously felled and neglected trees. Visitors are now able to drive over the bridge safely all the way to the base of Erin camp’s hill, making a visit to Omo more pleasant and safer than before.

Improving the bridge is, however, a double edged sword as it would have enabled a greater number of trucks to access the natural forests and their timber on the other side of the River. Therefore, in order to curb the flow of logging trucks, most of which would have been operating illegally in the area, a chain was placed across the bridge under the authority of the Ogun State Government’s Ministry of Forestry. As such we congratulate them, especially Alhaji Falillu Sabitu (Honourable Commissioner), Engr. Olusegun Onayemi (Permanent Secretary), Mr Oladipo Odeyimi (Director of Silviculure) and Mr Dolapo Odulana (Director of Non-Timber forestry products) for their demonstration of commitment towards sustainable natural resource use.

A view from the bottom reveals the scale of the issue

The bridge after repair: safer and more pleasant

Elephants in the OSO forests caught on camera!!!

Elephants and at least six other mammal species have been caught on camera within the Omo-Shasha-Oluwa forest complex in south-western Nigeria.

We are very grateful to EXP Marketing Nigeria Ltd. who donated the four ‘Bushnell trophy cams’ that have enabled us to finally gather photographic evidence on the existence of these wonderful but highly elusive forest creatures.

The photographs were taken by digital cameras that are triggered by the heat and movement of an animal walking past them, such as the very large male (left). These cameras are even able to record animals at night using an infra-red flash that animals can’t see. For example, a young bull elephant was photographed feeding at 1.38 in the morning beside a stream (see photo below).  Other animals to be photographed include a red river hog (or bush pig), a troop of red capped mangabey monkeys, a palm civet, several duikers, a squirrel, rat, a pair of reflective eyes belonging to a mysterious medium sized cat-like animal and a small predator dragging prey across the forest floor.

These images, taken over the course of just one month, demonstrate the rich wildlife found within the estimated 1,200 km2 of natural forests remaining within the OSO.  However, as pictures of several people illegally entering the area show, much work still needs to be done to protect these animals from being wiped out by forest clearance and poaching.

Click below to see more photos.

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Guardian (Nigeria) Newspaper: Conservationists decry disappearance of Chimpanzee from Africa

The following article by Isa Abdulsalami in Jos was printed last Friday on page 20 in The Guardian newspaper (Nigeria) highlighting the need for action in regards to the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzees, a sub-species that has one of its last remaining populations within the Omo-Shasha-Oluwa forest complex:

“A TEAM of Nigerian Conservation biologists has raised alarm that the rare Nigeria-Cameroun Chimpanzees, a recently recognised subspecies and one of the most endangered of all apes in the world may soon go into extinction.

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