Yankari National Park
|Yankari National Park|
The savanna experience
|Location||Bauchi State, Nigeria|
|Visitors||20,000 (in 2000)|
|Governing body||National Parks Service|
Yankari National Park is a large wildlife park located in the south-central part of Bauchi State, in northeastern Nigeria. It covers an area of about 2,244 km² (870 mi²) and is home to several natural warm water springs, as well as a wide variety of flora and fauna. Its location in the heartland of the West African savanna makes it a unique way for tourists and holidaymakers to watch wildlife in its natural habitat. Yankari was designated and opened as Nigeria’s biggest national park in 1991. It is the most popular destination for tourists in Nigeria and, as such, plays a crucial role in the development and promotion of tourism and ecotourism in Nigeria. It is also one of the most popular eco-destinations in West Africa.
The open country and villages that surround Yankari National Park are populated by farmers and herders, but there has been no human settlement in the park for over a century. There is, however, evidence of earlier human habitation in the park, including old iron smelting sites and caves.
In 1934, the Northern Regional Committee made a recommendation to the Executive Council to establish a pilot game reserve in the Bauchi Emirate. This was supported by Alhaji Muhammadu Ngeleruma, a minister in the former northern Nigeria Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Around this time, he had been impressed by a visit to a Sudanese game reserve while on a trip to East Africa. On returning, he encouraged the moves to establish something similar in Nigeria.
In 1956, the Northern Nigeria Government approved the plans for the creation of a Game Preservation area. Yankari was identified as a region in the south of what was then Bauchi Province where large numbers of wild animals existed naturally and could be protected. In 1957 a Game Preservation area was carved out and the area was constituted as a Bauchi Native Authority Forest Reserve.
Yankari was first opened to the public as a premier game reserve on 1 December 1962. Since then, the Northern Eastern State Government and then the Bauchi State Government both managed the Yankari Game Reserve. The park is now managed by the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the National Parks Service.
In 1991 it officially became a National Park by decree 36 of the National Government.
Ecotourism or ecological tourism is now favoured by many global environmental organizations and aid agencies as a vehicle to sustainable development. It promotes conservation of biological diversity by protecting ecosystems and has the local culture, flora and fauna as the main attractions. Yankari National Park fulfills these criteria.
In 2000, Yankari National Park hosted over 20,000 tourists from over 100 countries. This makes it the most popular tourist destination in Nigeria and, if properly managed, it could become a significant part in the development and promotion of tourism throughout Nigeria. It is one of a few remaining areas left in West Africa where wild animals are protected in their natural habitat.
Yankari National Park lies in the southern part of the Sudan Savannah. It is composed of savannah grassland with well-developed patches of woodland. It is also a region of rolling hills, mostly between 200m and 400m. Kariyo Hill, is the highest point at 640m.
Annual rainfall in the park is between 900mm and 1,000mm. The rainy season is from May to September. Temperatures range between 18C and 35C. During the dry season, the harmattan wind blows from the Sahara, often bringing dusty skies and night temperatures fall as low as 12C. The hottest period falls in March and April, when temperatures can rise above 40C in the day.
In the dry season, larger wildlife in the park depend on the Gaji river and its tributaries for survival. This river is the only watershed and cuts the park in two. Marshall estimated the area of the Gaji River Valley used by elephants in the dry season at about 40 km². . This increases the chances of seeing elephants at this time of year.
The Park’s main entrance is at Mainamaji village, about 29 km from Dindima. It is located within the Duguri, Pali and Gwana districts of Alkaleri LGA, Bauchi State. This LGA has a population 208,202 people occupying a total land area of 7,457.78 km².
The whole park lies on the Kerri formation, of Tertiary age, which is composed of sandstone, silt stones, kaolinites and grits. Underneath this lies the Gombe formation, of Cretaceous age, composed of sandstones, silt stones, and ironstones. The valleys of the Gaji, Yashi and Yuli Rivers are filled with Alluvium of more recent age. Sandy loans and clayey soils of riverine alluvium occur in the valley of the Gaji Yashi and Yuli Rivers. East of the Gaji valley is a 5–7 km wide band of very poor sandy soils that support a shrub savanna formation 
Yankari has rich wildlife resources. The park is an important refuge for over 50 species of mammal including African Bush Elephant, Olive Baboon, Patas Monkey, Tantalus Monkey, Roan Antelope, Western Hartebeest, Lion, African Buffalo, Waterbuck, Bushbuck and Hippopotamus. It also has a large and diverse freshwater ecosystem around its freshwater springs and the Raji River.
There are also over 350 species of bird found in the Park. Of these, 130 are resident, 50 are Palearctic migrants and the rest are intra-African migrants that move locally within Nigeria. These birds include the Saddle-billed Stork, White-rumped Vulture, Guinea fowl, Grey hornbill, and the Cattle Egret. 
Yankari is recognized as having one of the largest populations of elephants in West Africa, estimated at more than 300 in 2005. The growth of the elephant population has become a problem for surrounding villages at times as the animals enter local farms during the rainy season. The elephants have also stripped the park of many of its baobab trees. More than 330 species of birds have been recorded in the park.
Due to underground geothermal activity, Yankari National Park also features four warm water springs. The camp is named after the most well known of these, the Wikki Spring, from the local Duguri language with “Wikki” meaning “where are you?”. The Wikki Warm Spring is the largest spring and is about 13.0 metres wide and 1.9 metres deep. It daily flows 21,000,000 litres of clear, spring water into the Gaji river.  The spring has a constant temperature of 31.1°C through the year during both day and night and has been developed for recreation.
The other warm water springs are Dimmil, Gwan, and Nawulgo springs. A fifth spring, Tungan Naliki, is the only cool spring in the park.
Evidence of Early Human Settlements
- Dukkey Wells – 139 wells with interconnecting shafts representing an elaborate water storage system. 
- Marshall Caves – 59 dwelling caves dug into sandstone escarpments, which were discovered by P.J. Marshall in 1980. There are rock paintings and engravings in zig-zag form and in straight lines. 
- Tunga Dutse – a rock with more elaborate engravings than the Marshall caves. Legible writings cover an area on the sandstone rock embankment of about 4m in length in Dwall River. The writings are legible. However, their age and meanings have not been determined 
- Iron Smelting – the shau shau iron smelting works has about 60 standing shaft furnaces, which are believed to be the largest historical industrial complex of its time in the West Africa Sub-region 
- Kalban Hill – meaning “flat place” a flat topped hill gives tourists a complete view of the park
- Kariyo Hill – located near the Marshal caves is a beautiful picnic ground
- Paliyaram Hill – a popular camp for poachers, located 10 km from Wikki.
- The Tonlong Gorge – a scenic gorge with associated hills, buttes and escarpments located in the west of the park
The “Wikki Camp” is the tourist centre of the Park. Located about 42 kilometres from the main entrance gate, the camp is built beside, and named after, the Wikki warm spring, which is open for swimming 24 hours a day. There are 110 furnished chalets with varying size and quality, ranging from the ‘’presidential’’ suites to the youth hostel, all of which are being upgraded in phases. The camp also provides a restaurant, bar and conference centre. Daily safari trips depart at least twice from the camp.
The museum in the camp is well stocked with a variety of skins, tusks, bones and fully mounted stuffed game from the park. It is educational while also acting as a conservation centre, displaying hunting gear and traps taken from poachers. 
- Odunlami, S.S.S. (2000): Parks: Vanguard of Ecotourism Promotion. The Host Magazine Vol 2, No 1 pp 25
- Olokesusi, F. (1990): Assessment of the Yankari Game Reserve, Nigeria: Problems and Prospects. Butterworth Heineman Ltd., pp 153–155
- Odunlami, Samuel Segun, An Assessment of the Ecotourism Potential of Yankari National Park, Nigeria. Ecoclub.com E-Paper Series, Nr. 7, April 2003
- Ubaru, J.I (2000): Review of Illegal Activities in Yankari National Part (1991–1999). Unpublished.
- Falade, G.O. (2000): Understanding Tourism in Nigeria JIS Printing
- Marshall, P.J. (1985): A new method of censusing, Elephants and hippopotamus on Yankari Game Reserve. Nigeria Field 50: 5-11
- Ubaru, J.I (2000): Review of Illegal Activities in Yankari National Part (1991 – 1999)
- [Olokesusi, F. (1990): Assessment of the Yankari Game Reserve, Nigeria: Problems and Prospects. Butterworth Heineman Ltd., pp 153 – 155]
- Nihotours (2000): A Bulletin of the National Institute for Hospitality and tourism Studies, Kano, Nigeria. Vol 1, no 1 pp 8-9.
- YNP. (2000) A Handbill of the Yankari National Part, Nigeria.