IITA’s forest was originally part of much larger forests in southwestern Nigeria but now, surrounded by the city of Ibadan, it is the best protected and only urban forest in the region. This makes it a centre of biodiversity and a refuge for once common species. Over 450 different plants, 272 birds, 236 butterflies, 48 mammals and 28 reptiles and amphibians have been recorded and many more await discovery. Among these species are some that are in rapid decline and if not well protected may be threatened with extinction. They include the Forest Unit’s Flagship Species: Ibadan malimbe (bird), tree pangolin (mammal), iroko (tree) and the “P.g. plant” which produces the largest flower in Africa. Many of the plants have medicinal and other traditional uses that make them important to the Yoruba people. A wide range of medicinal herbs, spices, and local vegetables are grown in the Forest Unit’s Botanic Nursery and Ethnobotanical Garden.
The Forest Reserve is also an important resource for scientific research, training, and environmental education. School groups and students come for field trips and the Forest Unit organises workshops on various topics, such as beekeeping and tree propagation, and takes visitors for guided walks along forest trails which extend for over 4 km (2.5 miles) through the Forest Reserve. IITA Ibadan is a favourite destination for bird watchers and home to the Ibadan Bird Club, one of several bird-related activities organised by the Forest Unit’s Ornithological Monitoring Project.