David, talk us about Kwabre Forest and monkeys inhabiting this forest: which species are currently present and what makes them so important for conservation?
Extensive primate surveys conducted by prominent primatologists over the past decade have determined that two community-owned rainforests, the Kwabre Rainforest in Ghana and the Tanoé Forest in Côte d’Ivoire are the last known habitat of the Endangered Roloway Monkey (Cercopithecus diana roloway), one of the World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates.
These forests are also home to the Endangered White-naped Mangabey (Cercocebus atys lunulatus) and there is evidence to suggest that there may even still be surviving populations of the Critically Endangered Miss Waldron’s Red Colobus (Procolobus badius waldroni), a species which was declared extinct in 2000. Additional primate species that occur in the Kwabre Rainforest include; the Vulnerable Geoffroy’s Black and White Colobus (Colobus vellerosus) and Olive Colobus (Procolobus verus) as well as more common species such as the Lesser Spot-nosed Monkey (Cercopithecus petaurista petaurista) and Lowe’s monkey (Cercopithecus campbelli lowei). The high incidence of endangered primates in the Kwabre Forest is currently being attributed to the extremely difficult access due to heavy flooding of the area during most of the year.
What are the main threats to this forest? How do they affect those monkeys?
Deforestation is by far the greatest threat to Ghana’s unique primate populations. In the past 50 years, Ghana has lost over 90% of its primary rainforest due to extensive agriculture of rubber, palm oil and cocoa, excessive logging and mining as well as human population encroachment.
With only a few fragmented areas of rainforest remaining, primates as well as other fauna have increasingly fewer places to hide and extensive bush meat hunting is taking a serious toll on the ever dwindling populations. Illegal mining, logging and bushmeat hunting is rampant in both government protected areas and community owned lands and neither the government nor the communities currently have the capacity to halt these illegal activities.
Your organization WAPCA (West African Primate Conservation Action) is implementing actions in Kwabre forest in order to safeguard these threatened species. What is currently done on the field?
WAPCA is currently monitoring the endangered primate populations in the Kwabre Rainforest and training members of the community to assist with primate surveys. We are also in the process of educating the rural communities surrounding rainforest to sustainably manage their land for the benefit of the people and the endangered primates through the transformation of the Kwabre Rainforest into a federated Community Resource Management Area (CREMA).
The formation of a CREMA in the communities surrounding the Kwabre Forest will not only help protect one of the world’s two last remaining populations of Roloway Monkeys but will also ensure the maintenance of ecological services and functions for the communities surrounding the Kwabre Rainforest. Community members are currently being trained as Community Forest Protection Teams who will identify and halt illegal lumbering and bushmeat hunting in the Kwabre Rainforest.
Future activities in the virgin rainforest will include training the communities to conduct reforestation of degraded areas which will focus on planting fruiting trees utilized by endangered primates, creation of sustainable agro-forestry demo plantations in highly degraded areas in the communities to teach the communities sustainable agriculture practices towards food and economic security for communities, etc.
Is such kind of activities already or also implemented elsewhere in Ghana by your organization? What are your main achievements in terms of protection of the monkeys and their habitats?
Yes, WAPCA has been promoting breeding of endangered primates and implementing primate conservation activities in Ghana’s Western Region for over a decade. Our In Situ activities have included, extensive primate surveys conducted in the majority of the protected areas in Ghana’s Western Region, the formation of CREMA’s in rural communities surrounding protected areas and the provision of equipment and anti-poaching training for the Wildlife Division of the Ghana Forestry Commission.
These activities have resulted in updating the status of endangered primates in Ghana’s protected areas, improved understanding of the importance of rainforest conservation amongst the communities surrounding protected areas, improved wildlife monitoring and anti-poaching measures in the protected areas in the Western Region and increased sightings of endangered White-naped mangabeys by Wildlife Division staff in the Ankasa Conservation Area.
Our Ex Situ activities have included the construction of an Endangered Primate Breeding Centre in Accra which now houses the world’s largest troupe of White-naped Mangabeys under human care. The primates from this breeding centre provide the only source for new genetic stock for the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) which maintains an assurance population (in the case of catastrophic extinction of wild populations) from which offspring can be used to repopulate former habitat within the species historic range.
David, present us in few words the concept of CREMA. Whether that approach could be effective to ensure a better management of natural resources by communities around the Kwabre forest?
The Ghana Forestry Commission has been tasked with assisting rural communities with sustainable land management and reduction of illegal activity on community-owned lands, but there are currently insufficient funds and personnel to carry out these responsibilities.
Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs) are now being developed in Ghana as the primary institutional mechanism utilized by the government for implementing collaborative sustainable natural resource management outside protected areas. The CREMA management structure is composed of a CREMA Executive Committee (CEC) and a Community Resource Management Committee (CRMC). The CRMC is the local unit of the organization and is formed at the level of each community, while the Executive Committee formed out of the CRMC, acts to oversee the organization. Each CREMA has a constitution and by-laws that guide and regulate the activities of the CREMA.
But just forming the CREMA is not enough. WAPCA will also be educating the CREMA committees on sustainable rainforest management and sustainable agricultural practices as well as financial management. Community Forest Protection Teams will be trained to identify and halt illegal activities and fines imposed on illegal offenders will be utilized to support reforestation efforts and to continue activities of the protection teams. Sustainable agro-forestry demo plantations will be created in each community to provide local farmers with hands-on experience in sustainable agriculture practices.
An eco-friendly fair market supply chain will be established to ensure that the communities have the ability and financial motivation to continue implementing sustainable agricultural and rainforest management practices.
In the same line of idea, why to encourage the creation of a trans-border community-managed Reserve to join the Kwabre forest in Ghana and the existing Tanoé Community Forest in Côte d’Ivoire?
Once the Kwabre CREMA has been established, investigations will be made with regard to the creation of a Trans-border Community-managed Reserve joining the newly created Kwabre Community Forest in Ghana with Tanoé Forest in Côte d’Ivoire.
Currently, people from outside the rural communities are illegally crossing the Tanoé River which forms the border between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire and trafficking illegal lumber, bushmeat and other forest products. Apprehending and prosecuting these illegal offenders is difficult as the traditional authorities have no legal right to apprehend perpetrators who are trafficking products obtained outside their respective communities.
Also, as the “evidence” has originated from outside the country, prosecuting the offenders is difficult under the current law enforcement system. The creation of a Trans-border Community-managed Reserve will allow for the efficient prosecution of people illegally trafficking forest products between the two countries and will promote collaboration on sustainable management of both rainforests.
It is envisioned that within a two year period, investigations into the process for the creation of a Trans-border Community-managed Reserve will be fruitful in determining a strategy for implementation and that communities on the Ghanaian and Ivorian sides of the Tanoé River (and country borders) will be sharing their successes and challenges in community forest management and engaging in joint patrols of the forest to prevent illegal trafficking of forest products across the border.