The IITA campus in Ibadan is a centre of biodiversity in southwest Nigeria. It covers 1000ha of hill country and includes a secondary Forest Reserve of approximately 350ha, which has been protected since the site was first developed for agricultural research in 1967. Geographically it lies within what is known as the transition zone, with Guinea-Congolian rainforest to the south and savanna to the north, providing habitats for both forest and savanna species and giving unparalleled opportunities for assessing biological diversity in relation to forest restoration and climate change. The entire area is fenced and patrolled by security guards, giving a high level of protection.
As well as the Forest Reserve there are smaller areas of forest and bush, an Arboretum, a golf course, nine lakes, several streams and wetlands. The largest lake is a reservoir covering some 70ha with a shoreline over 5km long. This was formed in 1969 by construction of a dam on the Awba River which forms a large swamp as it enters the campus. The combination of forest, watercourses, hilly terrain and farmland, together with landscaped administrative, residential and recreational areas, gives a remarkably wide range of habitats.
Flora and Fauna
The IITA Forest Project focuses on three main aspects of biodiversity:
- Flora: especially medicinal plants. Over 430 indigenous plant species have been recorded of which 90% have medicinal uses in West Africa.
- Birds: IITA Ibadan is an internationally Important Bird Area (IBA), with over 220 species recorded and regular visits from researchers and expert birders.
- Butterflies: the first survey in 2002 confirmed 149 species. This has now risen to over 200.
All surveys are ongoing and updated as new records occur (see Checklists). Records are also kept of other wildlife, to which visiting experts and researchers often contribute. Rich aquatic biodiversity can be expected, along with reptiles and amphibians. Mammals are poorly represented due to persistent illegal hunting. An exception is the straw-coloured fruit bat (Eidolon helvum) which is present in spectacular numbers.