Atewa Forest Reserve is the last remaining nearly intact fragment of Upper Guinean Forest in West Africa and is recognized as a globally important site for rare and threatened species and habitats. A biodiversity survey of Atewa in 2006 revealed a high number of endemic and threatened species, including the Critically Endangered Togo Slippery Frog. However, since the survey, illegal logging, gold extraction, and bauxite prospecting have been degrading the reserve. This project aims to consolidate and support ongoing efforts by partners to obtain long-term protection of Atewa and to develop alternative livelihoods for the local people. The project will support efforts to convince the government of Ghana to declare Atewa as a National Park and develop an ecotourism industry at Atewa to provide livelihoods for the local people.
Included among the many rare and threatened species at Atewa are six plant species, six bird species of global conservation concern, two primates and 10 other large mammals, and a high proportion of threatened frog species such as Togo Slippery Frog (Conraua derooi) (CR), Bobiri Reed Frog (Hyperolius bobirensis) (EN), and Ghana River Frog (Phrynobatrachus ghanensis) (EN), for which the Atewa Range is likely to hold the largest remaining populations. The unique and diverse species assemblages documented during the survey, especially of amphibians, Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) and fishes, all depend on the clean and abundant water that originates in Atewa for their survival. Ghanaians around Atewa, and as far as Accra, also depend on this water source provided by the plateau formations, which soak up rain and mist and then hold, filter, and discharge fresh water.
We will collaborate with several Ghanaian based conservation organizations that are actively working to protect the biodiversity of Atewa by strengthening their justification for designating Atewa as a national park and by providing training and products for ecotourism. These groups include Save the Frogs! Ghana, which has an active campaign to declare Atewa as a national park, A Rocha Ghana who is working with local communities to lessen the pressure on Atewa, and Butterfly Conservation Society Ghana who have a large database of butterflies of Atewa and are in discussion with the market-leading eco-tourism company in Ghana about conservation, since Atewa is a popular site for their birding tours. We will work with the local communities and with academic entities including the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana. We will collaborate with Ghanaian journalists to publicize the campaign for Atewa National Park.
Project activities include:
• Create an online portal that will provide access to all available biological information about Atewa and surrounding areas, and become a repository of new data.
• Conduct a biodiversity survey of the northern, biologically unexplored part of the Atewa plateau to collect data on the population status of threatened species of birds and amphibians.
• Train a group of local people to become nature guides to demonstrate economic benefits of ecotourism in Atewa.
• Produce field guides to birds, frogs, butterflies, and damselflies of Atewa for both local conservation education and ecotourism.
• Promote Atewa as an ecotourism destination by educating the government and general public of the importance of Atewa and by establishing partnerships with tour companies.
• Work with local community to improve the ecotourism infrastructure, including lodging and transportation, as well as other small businesses targeting tourism market.
The focused research, training, and infrastructure development in the Atewa Reserve will increase the profile of the area within the government of Ghana. These actions will also improve the capacity of the local community to generate employment opportunities that depend on the health and integrity of the forests, and the unique species they support. This is a critical first step to ensuring that mining and other concessions that threaten the forests are not permitted within the Atewa Reserve.
© 2012 Global Wildlife Conservation