Conservationists sign pact to protect amphibious antelopes

BY: Nana Konadu-Agyeman
Mrs Donna Sheppard (left) presenting the dummy cheque to Torgbui Allegah (right). Looking on are Nana Kofi Adu-Nsiah (2nd left) and Mr Ken Kinney (2nd right). Picture: INNOCENT K. OWUSU.
Mrs Donna Sheppard (left) presenting the dummy cheque to Torgbui Allegah (right). Looking on are Nana Kofi Adu-Nsiah (2nd left) and Mr Ken Kinney (2nd right). Picture: INNOCENT K. OWUSU.

The Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission (FC) and two other civil society organisations have signed an agreement to conserve and protect the sitatunga species, amphibious antelopes, in the Avu Lagoon Community Protected Area in the Volta Region.

Per the agreement, the FC, the Development Institute (DI), the Calgary Zoological Society (CZS), two NGOs and 15 communities dependent on the Avu Lagoon, would work together to create awareness on the need to conserve the environment for the vulnerable sitatunga antelopes and other animal species.

The 15 communities are spread across the Akatsi South District, South Tongu District and the Keta Municipal Assembly.

As part of the five-year project, the CZS from Canada has donated GH¢540,000 to facilitate the study and monitoring of wildlife and habitats, as well as the implementation of environmentally friendly projects, livelihood improvement and revenue- generating schemes for the communities.

About sitatunga

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The sitatunga, sometimes called the marshbuck, is regarded as Africa’s only true amphibious antelope, distinguished by its long, splayed hooves.

The hooves make the sitatunga clumsy and vulnerable on firm terrain, but well adapted for walking through muddy, vegetated swamplands.

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Revitalising partnership

The Community Conservation Specialist of CZS, Ms Donna J. Sheppard, said the grant for the project was the first instalment to boost collective efforts to conserve and protect the Avu Lagoon Protected Area.

“Conservation is not a one man game that can be done quickly. In this partnership, we want to make conscious decisions and move slowly and carefully into something important.

This partnership is a revitalisation and we are optimistic that all partners are very committed to the conservation of the Avu Lagoon Conservation; the last place where we find sitatunga in Ghana, and to the people whose livelihood is so wrapped up in those natural resources,” she said.

The Avu Lagoon

The Executive Director of DI, Mr Ken Kinney, said the Avu Lagoon was an asset for the country for which all stakeholders needed to work together to conserve and protect to achieve sustainable development in the area.

Transparent partnership

The Executive Director of Wildlife Division of FC, Nana Kofi Adunsiah, said: “If we are able to protect and get a viable population of sitatunga species which is taught to be extinct, then it has really brought to the picture that we have done well with our conservation.”

For his part, the Chief of Xavi and the Chairman of the Avu Lagoon Community Resource Management Areas (CREMA), Torgbui Allegah, said the funds for the project would help to increase the population of Sitatunga species in the 15 beneficiary communities.

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