28 Jul 2011

Birds of Ghana book aims to inspire a new generation of conservationists

By nick.langley

The first field guide to the birds of Ghana to be intended for the people of Ghana rather than overseas visitors has been launched in a ceremony in the Swiss Hall, Accra.

The 352-page Birds of Ghana describes and illustrates all 758 birds species recorded in Ghana and, where possible, provides their names in three languages, Akan, Ewe and Gonja, to stimulate local interest in bird watching. The book is the fruit of a joint project between the Ghana Wildlife Society (GWS, BirdLife in Ghana), the Swiss Society for the Study and Conservation of Birds (Ala), BirdLife International and the publisher A&C Black.

GWS will make the guide available to schools, universities, conservation NGOs, protected area authorities and government environmental agencies. The guide was launched in the presence of the ambassadors and representatives of India, Switzerland, France and The Netherlands by Mr Henry Ford Kamel Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources.

Mr Kamel said that the book would raise awareness of birds and their conservation, and that birds and their habitats were an important source of revenue through eco-tourism Professor Yaa Ntiamoah-Baidu, Chair of the GWS management board, and Acting Pro-vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, added in her welcome address that GWS would soon be launching a nationwide common bird survey, which would provide an opportunity for everyone to get involved in observing and counting birds in their homes and workplaces. The survey would provide an essential scientific basis on which decisions about the conservation of Ghana’s changing environments could be made.

"Birds of Ghana is a present from Ala to the Ghana Wildlife Society and to everyone interested in the biodiversity of Ghana”, said Ala’s Gilberto Pasinelli. “May it help to promote knowledge about birds and their conservation in Ghana and West Africa.”

Ade Long, from the BirdLife International Secretariat, added that the BirdLife Partnership was committed to providing local field guides for countries which lack them. Over the last ten years, BirdLife have published local language field guides for more than 20 countries. “Field guides have inspired generations of conservation specialists, and resulted in the formation of conservation NGOs, which in many countries have become self-sustaining, mass-membership organisations capable of saving species, restoring habitats, and working closely with their governments in favour of biodiversity”, Ade Long said.

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Birds of Ghana will nourish and help grow the next generation of conservationists in Ghana. But there are still many gaps across the world, especially in many bird-rich African countries which lack field guides of any kind. The BirdLife International Partnership is seeking funding partners to help them change this.” Ala provided funding for Birds of Ghana to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

Ghana was chosen because most long distance migrants breeding in Switzerland spend the European winter in West Africa, and Ghana has been the source of many ringing recoveries. BirdLife International is grateful Ala and A&C Black for working with BirdLife to make an edition of the field guide available in Ghana.

Special thanks to the authors Nik Borrow and Ron Demey, as well as Nigel Redman from A&C Black for their support in making this book happen.