Sambisa Forest

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Sambisa Forest
Map showing the location of Sambisa Forest
Location of Maiduguri in Borno State
Location 60 km southeast of Maiduguri, Borno, Nigeria
Coordinates 11°15′00″N 13°25′00″E / 11.25°N 13.4167°E / 11.25; 13.4167Coordinates: 11°15′00″N 13°25′00″E / 11.25°N 13.4167°E / 11.25; 13.4167
Elevation 359 metres (1,178 ft)
Area 60,000 square kilometres (23,000 sq mi).
Forest cover Western Sudanese savannah

The Sambisa Forest is a forest in Borno State, northeast Nigeria. It is in the southwestern part of Chad Basin National Park, about 60 kilometres (37 mi) southeast of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. The forest has an area of 60,000 square kilometres (23,000 sq mi).[citation needed]


The Sambisa forest is located at the northeastern tip of the west Sudanian Savanna and the southern boundary of the Sahel Acacia Savanna about 60 km. south east of Maiduguri the capital of the state of Borno.[1] It occupies about 60,000 square kilometers in the states of Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi along the corridor Darazo, Jigawa, and some parts of Kano state farther north.[1][2] It is administered by the Local government areas of Nigeria of Askira/Uba in the south, by Damboa in the southwest, and by Konduga and Jere in the west.[1]

The name of the forest comes from the village of Sambisa which is on the border with Gwoza in the East. The Gwoza hills in the East have peaks of 1,300 meters above sea level and form part of the Mandara Mountains range along the Cameroon-Nigeria border.[2] The forest is drained by seasonal streams into the Yedseram and the Ngadda Rivers.[3][4]


The climate is hot, dry and wet with minimum temperatures of about 21.5 °C between December and February, a maximum of about 48 °C in May and average temperatures of about 28-29 °C. The dry season is from November to May and the wet season is between May and September/October with annual rainfall of about 190 mm.[3][4]


The Sambisa forest is one of the few forests in North Eastern Nigeria where sparse vegetation is the norm. Most of the vegetation is typical of the Sudanian Savanna although, because of human activity, some parts have become more like the Sahel savanna.[5] The forest consists of a mixture of open woodland and sections of very dense vegetation of short trees about two metres high and thorny bushes, with a height of 1/2-1 metre, which are difficult to penetrate.[2] Major trees and bushes in the forest include tallow, rubber, wild black plum, birch, date palm, mesquite, acacia, monkey bread, red bushwillow, baobab, jackalberry, tamarind and terminalia.[6]


BirdLife International reported that 62 species of birds have been recorded in the Sambisa Game Reserve,[6] including the guinea fowl, francolin, village weaver, Abyssinian ground hornbill, Arabian bustard, Savile's bustard, African collared-dove, chestnut-bellied starling, black scrub-robin and the Sudan golden sparrow. The forest was also thought to be the last remaining site of the ostrich in Nigeria.[6]

17 species of mammals were reported in 2010 in the Sambisa Game Reserve[3] including, baboon, patas monkey, tantalus monkey, Grimm's duiker, red-fronted gazelle, African bush elephant, roan antelope, hartebeest, African leopard and spotted hyenas. However poaching, chopping downing trees for fuel, human agricultural penetration[3] and the Boko Haram jihadist group's activities since 2013[2] have reduced their numbers since then.[7] An aerial survey of the game reserve in 2006 reported seeing only five large wild animal species.[4]

Sambisa Game Reserve[edit]

During the colonial period, the Sambisa game reserve covered an area of 2,258 km2 (872 sq mi) in the eastern part of the forest.[7] Later reports put the size of the game reserve at 518 square kilometers[3] or 686 square kilometers[6] although some official documents included the Marguba Forest Reserve in the Sambisa Game Reserve.[4]

From 1970, the reserve was used for safaris. It had a large population of leopards, lions, elephants, hyenas, that tourists could observe from cabins or safari lodges. In 1991, the government of the state of Borno incorporated this reserve into the national park of the Chad Basin. But the abandonment of its management, following the Sambisa takeover by Boko Haram insurgents in February 2013, led to the gradual disappearance of animals, lodges collapsed or were destroyed, vegetation invaded roads, and rivers dried up.[7]


The Sambisa forest, especially the mountainous region of Gwoza near the Cameroon border, was used as a shelter of the jihadist Boko Haram group, particularly during the Chibok schoolgirl kidnapping in April 2014.[7][8][9]

The Nigerian Army found the forest to be heavily mined.[10] However, on 28 April 2015, four Boko Haram camps in the Sambisa forest were overrun by the Nigerian military who freed nearly 300 girls and women,[11] who were not, however, the missing Chibok girls. 234 further women and children were reportedly freed near Kawuri and Konduga on 30 April 2015, and 13 Boko Haram camps destroyed.[12]

The Nigerian Army Wednesday night 4 November 2015, said troops of 5 Brigade Task Group, killed two Boko Haram suspects, after destroying their camps at Hausari and Baranga in Marte Local Government Area of Borno State. In efforts to continually dominate recovered territories and clear all Nigerian territory of Boko Haram vestiges, the advancing troops of 5 Brigade Task Group have today cleared 5 more terrorists camps at Hausari and Baranga in Marte Local Government Area of Borno State.[13]


  1. ^ a b c Kayode, Bodumin (27 April 2014) "Sambisa: Forest of a thousand myths",; retrieved 29 April 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Kayode, Bodunrin (29 April 2014). "Inside Nigeria's Sambisa Forest". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 May 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Mbaya, Y.P. and Malgwi, H. (March 2010) Species list and status of Mammals and Birds in Sambisa game reserve, Borno State, Nigeria Journal of Research in Forestry, Wildlife and Environment, Vol 2, no 1, p. 135
  4. ^ a b c d Omondi, P., et al, (6 July 2006) Total Aerial Count of Elephants and other Wildlife Species in Sambisa Game Reserve in Borno State, Nigeria per MIKE (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants) Program (; retrieved 3 April 2015.
  5. ^ Ladan, Suleiman Iguda (December 2014). "Forests and Forest Reserves as Security Threats in Northern Nigeria". European Scientific Journal 10 (35): 120–142. ISSN 1857-7431. 
  6. ^ a b c d (2015) Sambisa Game Reserve Birdlife International; retrieved 29 April 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d "Sambisa Forest From Nature Conservation to Terrorists Haven". 10 May 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2015. 
  8. ^ Kayode, Bodunrin. "Inside Nigeria's Sambisa forest, the Boko Haram hideout where kidnapped school girls are believed to be held". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  9. ^ Okonkwo, Emeka (10 May 2014). "US Marines, Satellite locate missing girls in Sambisa forest". The Herald (Nigeria). Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  10. ^ Oladipo, Tomi (24 April 2015) Analysis: Islamic State strengthens ties with Boko Haram, BBC News; retrieved 29 April 2015.
  11. ^ (29 April 2015) Nigerian army 'rescues nearly 300' from Sambisa Forest, BBC News Africa; retrieved 29 April 2015.
  12. ^ (2 May 2015) Boko Haram: Nigerian army frees another 234 women and children, BBC News, Africa; retrieved 2 May 2015.
  13. ^ salisu Idris (November 4,2015) Troops kill two Boko Haram suspects [1] today News, (Nigeria); Retrieved 4 November 2015