Within the city of Port Harcourt in southern Nigeria, a busy market buzzed with the chatters of buyers and sellers haggling over prices. The market is popularly known as Slaughter- the main abattoir market of Port Harcourt city. The cluster of its market stalls slopes down to a large meandering creek that flowed by the market, smeared in the dark tones of the typical Niger Delta waters. On the other side of the market sprawled a forest grove above which soared and roamed a flock of black vultures. The quiet grove blew an irresistible charm upon the vicinity as its wide canopies cast pockets of enchanting shades beneath the trees. This picturesque and serene belt of wooded trees nests the popular Port Harcourt’s wildlife Park.
I took a taxi from Garrison junction and we snaked through the busy Trans-Amadi Road and alighted at Slaughter Market. I dashed across the road and proceeded to the entrance to the wildlife park. The walls enclosing the gate were plastered in colorful photos of various animals one would see at the park. I paid a token of 100 Naira and strolled into the serene park. The entire zoo is stylishly set with blocks of metal cages and concrete structures carefully arrayed across the expanse, while concrete benches punctuated small expanses of soft sands and grass between the cages and clouds of verdant foliage hanging overhead.
Just beside the gate house, a grey-feathered African Parrot cawed at me from a small mobile cage reposed on a bench. I smiled and continued into the zoo on a concrete walkway. From about 20m ahead, two pink-headed Ostriches peeked out at me over the low fences of their confines, bearing a funny expression on their eye brows- like “here comes another intruder”. I walk to the left and their gazes followed me, I decided to take a right and I could notice their long neck twisting and turning to my new direction. I decide to make a mischievous move and quickly turned a corner into the far side of a nearby cage. At that instant, I almost lost my footing in shock as a big baboon inside the cage jumped at net just beside me. I got scared and flinched, and the baboon laughed at me with its mouth wide open, revealing a set of razor sharp canines.
The zoo guide came around and wanted to get me more entertained (in hope of getting a tip at the end). I didn’t mind an interesting show though. The tour guide knew how to get his baboon excited. As I watched the guide and the baboon exchange funny gestures, the guide began to beat his chest in front of the baboon’s cage, and the Baboon jumped up and began to run excitedly around its cage hitting and slamming the nets. I smiled and shook my head in amusement. I gave the guide a tip and walked on.
Nearby, two duikers foraged on some short grasses in their cage. The duikers seemed to command an irresistible sight at the zoo, with their precarious-looking slender legs, and bodies clad in coats of shining brown furs with freckles of white stripes lining their back. A picturesque peacock neighbored the duikers. It sauntered around idly in its cage, flaunting its beautiful and gorgeous feathers for anyone who cared to have a look. Next to the peacock, a Mona monkey sat at the edge of its cage, picking at its golden fur, while a poultry of three spotless geese quacked in a nearby cage, intensifying their pitch as I attempted to take their picture with my camera.
A pool of water in the next cage suddenly developed heavy ripples as a roughly oval but dome-like, dark-brown figure slowly surfaced. I moved closer to have a better look and in an instant, a big African Soft-shell turtle crawls out of the water onto the nearby concrete platform. The adjacent cages were occupied by Nile crocodiles with eyes wide open and sharp-pointed canines pointing from heavily set and stone-hard jaws. A large and heavily netted enclosure stood some meters away, floored by well watered grasses and a tall tree reposed at its center. Two lions ambled majestically from one end of the cage to the other. From time to time, each of them bit a chunk from the carcass of a goat at the centre of the cage and walked on, their paws hitting the ground with calculated steps and their manes wafting in harmony to the breeze blown from the tree canopies.
Other cages housed varieties of amazing and intriguing wildlife, which includes kites, vultures, porcupine, python, monitor lizard and crown peacocks. A secluded building at the zoo had been fitted with wildlife trophies such as two stuffed lions, the shell of a huge African Soft-shell turtle, stuffed vulture, stuffed antelope etc. The zoo surroundings was very neat and comfortable for picnicking. However, these sights, sounds and charming ambiance of the Port Harcourt Wildlife Park made it a must-visit for nature lovers visiting or residing in the city.
This article was written by Folarin Kolawole
Founder of Naijatreks, Nigerian-born Folarin Kolawole is a geologist, travel writer and researcher. When not at work, he travels the length and breadth of Nigeria, exploring, taking photos and writing about her numerous hidden tourist potentials. 'Naijatreks' is a product name registered under the Ntreks brand, which is also duly registered by Nigeria's Federal Corporate Affairs Commission. The contents on this blog are re-usable. However, it must be ensured that it is linked back to this blog, and correctly attributed to Naijatreks or the author. Please do not edit, rewrite or commercialize the original works on this blog without direct and written permission from the Founder (Folarin Kolawole). For inquiries and advert placement on the blog, kindly contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.