Promoting endangered primates’ conservation in Ghana
Traditionally, conservation efforts in Ghana have focused strictly on wildlife protected areas because of their potential to protect rare and threatened species and provide essential ecosystem services. Unfortunately, authorities have oriented the management of forest reserves mainly for the economic benefits of timber production and generally neglected ecological and socio-economic benefits. Hence, little is known on the status and trends of existing biodiversity and which species to protect or manage to ensure sustainable utilization in forest reserves. Consequently, little efforts have been invested to conserve wildlife in these areas.
Between June 2017 and October 2018, the Presbyterian University College, Ghana (PUCG) embarked on a research and conservation project with funding from Critical Ecosystem Partnership through the BirdLife International Regional Implementation Team. The goal of this project was conservation of endangered primates and general biodiversity in Ghana, through implementation of IUCN’s Regional Action Plan for the Conservation of Chimpanzees in West Africa.
Project implementation was done in two phases. The first phase involved a survey of primates in three forest reserves namely Cape Three Points (51 km2 ), Atewa Range (232 km2 ), and Tano-Offin (402 km2 ). Findings of this survey were then used to raise awareness and educate local communities on these endangered primates.
The results of this survey revealed the type, number and distribution of primate species predominant in these reserves. At CTPFR, identified species included Lowe’s mona monkey (Cercopithecus lowei), Lesser spot-nosed monkey (Cercopithecus petaurista), Olive Colobus (Procolobus verus) , White-thighed Colobus (Colobus vellerosus), and White-naped Mangabey (Cercocebus lunulatus); At Atewa, the findings of the survey indicated different primates including , C. lowei , C. petaurista , C. vellerosus and C. lunulatus. None of the forest reserves recorded Miss Waldron's Red Colobus (Procolobus waldroni), West African Chimpanze (Pan troglodytes verus) and Roloway monkey (Cercopithecus roloway). At Tano-Offin, no primate was encountered.
The second phase of this project entailed educating and creating awareness on the need to conserve the endangered primate species. More than 400 stakeholders were targeted for this awareness raising including 45 law enforcement officers, 33 school clubs leaders, 200 community-based organizations, 120 locals and 20 bush meat dealers. Education and awareness raising activities were carried out through workshops, road marches, durbars and erection of billboards to draw the public’s attention to the need for primate and biodiversity conservation. Additionally, ‘T’ shirts, flyers, and stickers containing primate conservation messages were produced and distributed among community members.
Feedback from a post-project survey on awareness created, indicated that the project has been successful in increasing knowledge among stakeholders, most importantly bush meat dealers and market traders. “In recent past, it was not rare to find primate meat for sale in this market. Hunters were bringing the meat to us frequently but nowadays, this is rare. We didn’t know that selling this meat has been driving primates to extinction, but after participating in the sensitization events organized by PUCG, we now know that these species need our help to survive in the wild. I’m therefore not selling or eating any primate meat”, says Samuel Adjei trader at Anyinam market.