Recently, the sudden emergence of three stray elephants in two Kebbi communities, Zaria Kala Kala and Genten Fadama, from the Republic of Benin, has been very surprising to many. YAHYA SARKI (Kebbi) examines the reactions of the members of the host communities and the authorities involved to the presence and behaviours of the animals.

As the usual nature of village communities, any strange animal that comes to the community or is spotted close to the community, is chased and killed by hunters or people of that particular community, not minding if the animal is an endangered specie or not.  However, the reverse was the case in Kebbi. Recently, communities in Kebbi, especially that of Zaria Kala Kala, played host to three stray elephants. The community demonstrated quite an unusual gesture towards three endangered species of elephants that were allegedly carried by River Niger currents to the area, all the way from Benin or Niger Republic. Most striking point of the character exhibited by the host community, was how the members helped the stray elephants by safe-guarding their lives so that no danger could come to them even with their strange looks and the destruction of their crops by the wandering animals. Initially, there was intense fear in Zaria Kala Kala village community of Koko Besse local government area of Kebbi State, as the three stray Elephants on Tuesday invaded the area.According to the residents of the village, the elephants were brought to the area by river currents, which pass through the area. Another source told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the animals were suspected to have migrated from the neighbouring jungles of Niger or Benin Republic from the territories of the River Niger banks, when they strayed from their group and entered Kebbi community.

The village head of Ganten Fadama, one of the communities that hosted the stray elephants, Alhaji Muhammad Bello, said that when the news came of the elephants that strayed into their community, fear of what would happen gripped the community. “We first heard that three elephants were seen in Zariyar Kala Kala in Koko-Besse local govt. So, after two days again, some of my village people went to their farm lands and came back with the information that those three elephants earlier seen in Zariyar Kala Kala, were now in their farm lands.
“After I received the information, I went by myself to confirm what they said. After verifying the information, I immediately informed my local govt chairman, Alhaji Muhammad Kaura Danhakimi Zagga, for necessary action. I equally mobilised my subjects including the hunters and told them not to harm or provoke the animals even when they ate their crops.
“I ensured that we provided protection to the wild animals from hunters and also that the wild animals were not to be killed.
Another traditional leader in the area, the district head of Borgu in Bagudo local government area, Alhaji Usman Adamu (Sarkin Bargu ) narrated how the endangered animals found their way into their communities and how they made efforts to safe guard them from any harm.

“Well, as you might have heard, the elephants are with us unharmed. They have been with us for two weeks now, nobody touched them. It is our belief that they lost their way and came all the way from Benin Republic. We have been advised by authorities not to harm them. So, I called my people and told them so and thank God, the community people cooperated with me.
“People only follow the elephants to watch them. Our prayer is that the owners of the elephants from Benin Republic will come and take them away because of the damage the elephants are causing our farmers. They entered our farms and ate guinea corn, millet, maize and even our rice field is not spared by the elephants.
“Our people have demonstrated high sense of understanding with the animals even when it appears they tamper with their crops. The elephants are three, two are at Genten Fadama while the other one is at Genten Tudu inside water which is very difficult for us to navigate,” he said.
A farmer in the area, Liman Sani, at Genten Fadama community, lamented on how the stray elephants entered his farm and ate his crops. “Actually, I cannot quantify the damage done to my farm by the elephants but I was able to restrain myself not to harm them as I watched how they were eating my corn and millet farms.
“We did not touch them because my district head, that is Sarkin Bargu, warned everyone not to touch them. We are appealing to the authorities concerned not to harm or provoke them”, he said.
One of the residents, Usman Ali, said the elephants are likely to have come from Karaileje surroundings to Yamusa in Borgu district area of Niger State and down to Bagudo from where they entered Zaria Kala-Kala in Koko Besse.
Isah Koko, another resident, also told LEADERSHIP Sunday that, “On 28 August, 2018, at about 07:50 hours, three elephants invaded our village in Zaria Kala-Kala. It was believed that they came through the River Niger territories of Niger Republic through Bagudo from Yamusa in Borgu”. He opined that haven’t spent the night at their village, one of the elephants was left behind.
When LEADERSHIP Sunday contacted the commissioner for Environment, Alhaji Musa Kalgo on the matter, he said the state government was aware that three elephants crossed into Kebbi State through Bagudo. He said directives had been given to the ministry officials at the local government area there to protect the animals.
“As I speak to you, the animals are being monitored so that no harm comes to them. One is in Zaria Kala-Kala and the other two are in Bagudo. Transporting them would be difficult. It is believed that they crossed into the state from Benin Republic and the owners might come for them.”
Also, the chairman of Koko Besse, Alhaji Musa Shehu, told our correspondent on phone that the governor had directed that the animals should be protected. “The police and civil defence are on ground to ensure no harm comes to the animals before they are returned from where they came from”, he explained.
LEADERSHIP Sunday learnt that the Kebbi State governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, on receiving the reports of the three stray elephants in his state, returned from Abuja and directed the ministry for Environment, security agencies, local government chairmen of Koko Besse and Bagudu, as well as all the traditional leaders of the areas, to ensure safety of the elephants in their domain.

The governor made over two trips to the communities where the elephants strayed and thanked them for not harming the elephants. At the two communities, Zaria Kala Kala and Genten Fadama, while thanking the communities, he also conveyed President Muhammadu Buhari”s commendation for the two Kebbi communities for giving the elephants adequate protection.
At Genten Fadama village, Bagudu told the villagers that both President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice president Yemi Osibanjo were impressed and were full of admiration when he shared the pictures of the stray elephants being safe guarded by Kebbi communities.
“President Muhammadu Buhari and his VP ,Yemi Osibanjo, expressed appreciation for all the role you have played in giving the elephants protection even when they ate your crops in your farms”. Bagudu also promised to assist all those farmers whose farm lands were affected by the stray elephants.
He cautioned them to stay at safer distance in order not to provoke the animals. He also said the state government is collaborating with the federal government to ensure that the elephants are evacuated to where they come from.