Samuel Wycliff

Department of History

Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria-Nigeriacom


Wild animals, just like humans, have a fascinating history which has not been properly studied and documented, except for the efforts made by zoologists, ecologist and geographers. Wild animals have occupied an important place in the pre-colonial history of Northern Nigeria, but in Kilba society such aspect of historical landmark has not received the scholarly attention being an area that played a significant role in the society’s socio-political and economic activities for centuries before the advent of colonial rule. In light of this, this essay explores the contribution of wildlife to the economy and society of the pre-colonial Kilba kingdom in Northern Nigeria beginning in 1700AD., when a dynasty rule was established and helped the kingdom grow powerful enough to expand its domain beyond the area currently inhabited by Kilba people. Then comes 1904, the year that the Kilba kingdom was conquered and put under colonial authority. It accomplishes so by relying on primary and secondary sources such oral interviews, archival records, books, journals, theses, and dissertations, as well as quantitative and historical research approaches. This is accomplished by also examining the unique roles played by wildlife in Kilba cultural identity, entrepreneurship, play reserve and security. This paper finds out that in Kilba society, wildlife served as a source of totem for long-life, discipline, security of life and properties, cavalry force, means of transportation, medicine, and entrepreneurship, which contributed immensely to the growth and development of Kilba Kingdom and bond of interaction within its communities and neighbours.

Keywords: Wildlife, Kilba, Pre-colonial, Northern Nigeria, Totem,


Many Nigerian and foreign historians have written about pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial Kilba society and her neighbors, emphasizing social, political, economic, and ideological dimensions; However, the impact on the physical environment within which Kilba people lived for centuries has received little attention, particularly in regard to how man affected wildlife and how the wildlife affected man’s life for centuries before the advent of British colonial rule. Thus, what is surprising on studies on Kilba society in the three phases of Nigerian history (pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial) is the impact of pre-colonial Kilba society on wildlife ecology, which is rarely discussed, at least in any reasonable depth and from a historical perspective.  It is against this backdrop that, this paper attempts a historical study of the relationship between human and wild animal inhabitations of Kilba kingdom from the pre-colonial period. The main focus the paper is the impact of the wildlife on the socio-economic and political life of the pre-colonial Kilba society. Writing this paper is necessary in the sense that, it would expose one of the importance of wild animals in the pre-colonial Kilba kingdom or society. It is by so doing that one would appreciate the interest in the history of wildlife in the economy and society of Kilba kingdom. This study become necessary in view of the fact that, even those whose field of research has a direct bearing on wildlife have not given the much-needed attention to the subject in their recent studies on biodiversity and physical landscape of Kilba. They completely neglected the wild animals as if they are not part of the ecosystem of Kilba society. The environmental impact of human modification of the ecological landscape and “de-reservation” on wildlife in the area is ignored. Examples of such scholarly studies are works of the works of “Socio-Economic and Political History of the Kilba People in the Pre-Colonial Period” by A. Wajiga; “A Study of the Emergence, Growth and Fall of the Huba Kingdom from C.1500AD to 1906AD” by B.Y. Gudumbul; The Kilba and their literature by J.P. Hananiya; “The Establishment of a Government-General among the Kilba” by G.M. Chaskda; Aspects of the Economic History of Kilbaland, 1820 to 1934 by J.H. Pongri; “Economical and Traditional Uses of Highlands among the Kilba Tribe of Hong Local Government Area, Adamawa State in Nigeria” by E.N. Gandapa; Political Developments in Adamawa, 19001960 by J.H. Pongri; Adamawa Past and Present: An Historical Approach to the Development of a Northern Cameroun Province by A.H.M. Kirk-Greene; An African Church has borne. The Story of Adamawa and Central Sardauna Province in Nigeria by M. Nissen; Chronicles of A Golden Era – A Biography of Aliyu Musdafa the 11th Lamido Adamawa by Y.A. Yakubu; Colonialism by Proxy: Hausa Imperial Agents and Middle Belt consciousness in Nigeria by M.E. Ochonu; The Emirates of Northern Nigeria: A Preliminary Survey of their Historical Traditions by S.J. Hogben and A.H.M. Kirk-Greene.[1]

To this aim, it is significant to remember that, historically, wildlife has been vital undomesticated or untamed animal species that lives and grows wild and finds its food, water, shelter and other needs on its own whether in or near urban areas or in the country side, have value to humans.[2] The wild animals provided food, clothing and decorative materials for use by the people. Their byproducts have also been used for medicinal and cultural purposes, including providing weaponry for human use. They have also been used for sport, recreational and educational purposes. They have killed and have been killed. Thus, they have been feared and admired at the same time depending on what side of the divide one views them.[3] It was for their relevance as “natural asset” that the Kilba society so much admired them as discussed in subsequent pages of the paper. 

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