Our RAP team of plant and wildlife experts had traveled to remote forest
fragments in Ghana’s southwest. The task at hand: assisting the government by collecting biological data and making conservation recommendations for four recently designated Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas (GSBAs). In 1999, the government of Ghana reclassified parts of 29 forest reserves as GSBAs. The move was a policy
shift away from logging
and toward the promotion of ecotourism
and other sustainable activities.
The new policy comes not a moment too soon. Ghana, which falls within the Guinean Forests of West Africa biodiversity hotspot
, has lost 80 percent of its original forest cover, most of it this century.
Every morning, often before daybreak, researchers would head into the bush to record the sights and sounds of the rainforest. Because birds and primates
are usually less active in the middle of the day, daily soakings were less of a problem for researchers in these groups. Less lucky were the scientists looking for large mammal tracks and dung that are easily washed away.
Our team, fortunately, did triumph over the rain: By the end of the three-week survey, we had recorded the presence of the rare Hypoleucis sophia butterfly, West African chimpanzees, eight species
of globally threatened birds, dwarf crocodiles and forest elephants. Scientists also documented a new species of frog and the first record in Ghana of the African wart frog.
A bit muddier, but back safely, we handed our findings and recommendations over to CI-Ghana for discussions with the Ghanaian government. Recommendations included increased protection for areas contiguous to national parks, stronger enforcement and monitoring in the GSBAs, improved biodiversity and conservation education within nearby communities
, and development of ecotourism programs.