Three hours south of Jos, the capital of Plateau State, is the state’s largest forest, an expanse of savannah wetlands stretching 224 sq km. It is the Pandam Game Reserve and Wildlife Park, a habitat of rare animals and exotic birds.
Established in 1972 by the then military governor of Benue-Plateau, Joseph Gomwalk, and opened in 1975, the park’s animals include antelopes, monkeys, and duikers on land, and hippopotamuses and the African manatee in its lake. The hippopotamuses, numbering six according to the State Tourism Corporation, go under water during heat and appear at nights or early mornings. Baboons and monkeys glide from tree to tree with their young, accompanied by birdsong. It has been a notable attraction for not only tourists but researchers—zoologists, ecologists, and environmental scientists—tracking its animals, especially the birds, including brightly coloured parrots.
As the park drew more people in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the military governments built 20 chalets, a multipurpose hall, and a manager’s house. Due to its cool location, it served as venue for many government activities, including political rallies after military rule. Recently, the reserve is being threatened by a lack of maintenance and by lumbering by a Chinese company, depleting the forest.
Tourist activities at the reserve include picnicking, bird watching, game viewing, sport fishing. On the lake, there are boats and canoes with guides.
Otosirieze Obi-Young is Editor of Folio Nigeria, where he profiles innovators and facilitators in culture: art, business, entertainment, activism, health, food. He is a writer, journalist, curator, media consultant, former academic, and Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Open Country Mag, a new online platform covering African literature. In 2019, he received the inaugural The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature. In 2020, he was named among "The 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians" by Avance Media. Find him on otosirieze.com or on Twitter & Insta: @otosirieze.