Protecting Nigeria’s forests and fauna resources is not a business for the pedestrian and weak at heart. It used to be a man’s job, tough, dangerous and unthankful, but it is no longer a boy scout calling, since Caroline Olory ventured to dare.
In Nigeria’s conservation trajectory and heads-up leadership by Dr. Ibrahim Goni, Conservator General of Federation, detailed and determined revelations have brought forward the capacity of female conservators to bear.
Caroline Olory is the trust-holder, the baton of hope and the first female ranger corps, rolled out to burst the male dominance (not mischievous in any way) of a national call to duty to dare terrorism against the silent beings of our forest ecosystem.
Groomed and honed by a system that has no room for the squeamish and procrastinators, Olory stood to be counted worthy as exemplary leader of a new generation of protectors of Nigerian earth resources.
Her history and call to duty in Nigeria’s National Parks Service tells of encounters which becloud discouragement but foster courage.
From the thick forests of Kainji Lake National Park, she began her journey to eternal love for nature, under rain and sun, beating off fatigue, poor remuneration and the unthankfulness and ingratitude of a nation that hardly shows sympathy for those who sacrifice limbs and family welfare to keep Nigeria’s forest economy safe.
Indeed, family and friends do wonder what drives this beautiful lady from Cross River, who could have chosen a life of luxury as banker or marketing guru, but chose to nurse and protect “ordinary trees and bush meat.”
At Old Oyo National Park, where Olory currently holds forth as Conservator of Park (CP), equivalent of the rank of Commissioner of Police, uprightness, discipline and respect to call to duty are sacrosanct, no dulling, as we say on the streets.
Though the head office in Oyo Town sparkles in cleanness and tranquility, which only a natural amphitheatre and holds bay could provide, the real theatre of operations lies in two ranges of diverse gifts of the park in Ikoyi Ile, Kisi, Igbeti, Igboho and Sepetri.
Olory leads from the front, compassionate, mindful that she represents thousands of Nigerian female conservators and must bear charge to change the narratives that women and female conservators can only thrive as hospitality caregivers or, at best, conservation teachers and evangelists.
Yes, Olory preaches conservation education but the challenge of running heavily-armed illegal loggers and poachers out the park presents another dimension of expectations.
Confronted with the reality that a bullet is what separates her and her colleagues from a life of duty to preserve and protect the ecosystem, Olory ventures out every day as if it is her last day on earth and, take it from me, she is passionate to lay her life down to keep safe the flora and fauna resources, many of them on the endangered list, from callous human predators and their sponsors.
Her community conservation diplomacy is examlpry. The support zone communities, the traditional rulers and youths, are excited and appreciative of her care and love for nature and forest beings.
Alapata of Igboholand, Oba Joel Olalere Olawuwu, told me, “Caroline Olory is God sent to Old Oyo National Park, particularly at this period when dangerous and strange cattle herders have sworn to overrun the park, using it as a base to rob, kidnap, maim and terrorise the people.”
Significantly, Olory has built a network of intel, coordinating and supporting local vigilantes, including harvesting willing established national security architecture, to keep the vast culutral ranges and unique ecosystem of Old Oyo National Park safe.
Though it’s still work in progress, the proactive management and leadership bearings of this biosphere Mother Teresa potends a great future for the peace and security of the park, home to the old kingdom of Oyo, the home of Yoruba king and god of fire Sango.
The potency of communal restiveness occasioned by the threat of Fulani cattle grazers can be felt here, just like other protected enclaves across the country, but so far Caroline Olory has doused tension, night and day spent on talks across tables of understanding and reasoning, yet desiring government funding support and facilitation.
Olory is “talk and do” personified but behind her eyes lies a heart full of love and compassion for not just mother earth but for the local hospitable folks of Igbeti, Igboho, Ikoyi ile and Sepeteri, deserving to live in peace with nature, a people who gave up their rich ancestral inheritance but are oppressed and troubled today by strange, heartless souls, killing and maiming for what is not theirs.
Caroline Olory needs our prayers as a nation and people. She left kitchen and luxury of the “other rooms” and here puts her life and that of her men on the line for the sake of our future survival and peaceful coexistence with mother earth.