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Issue #1620      November 27, 2013

Atiwa (or Atewa) Rainforest Reserve in danger

“Our forests shall be sold off to mining companies and will then be turned into open pits without heed for the priceless natural resources we depend on,” stated Daryl Bosu of A Rocha Ghana, a Ghanaian environmental NGO.

The Atiwa Forest Reserve in south-eastern Ghana is one of West Africa’s greatest natural treasures. Its varied ecosystems contain exceptional biodiversity – lush jungle with magnificent tall trees, eight-metre high tree ferns, grasslands, marshes and river landscapes that are home to a rich variety of animal and plant species and a refuge for some of Africa’s rarest animals and plants. Many of these species cannot be found elsewhere in Africa, except here in the tropical rainforest of Atiwa Forest Reserve.

Atiwa has been recognised as a protected area since 1926 due to its outstanding variety of life forms and most recently, BirdLife International 2001 classified the rainforest as an Important Bird Area (IBA). Due to many of the plant species occurring only in this part of Ghana, or in few other localities, part of Atiwa was declared as a specially protected GSBA (Globally Significant Biodiversity Area) following a national botanic survey of forest reserves by Ghana Forestry Department in the 1990s. Atiwa Forest Reserve has for instance, at least 323 species of trees.

In a research expedition in 2006 to survey the forest, scientists discovered two rare and endangered species of primate in the reserve: Ursine or Geoffroy’s Pied Colobus (also known as Black and White or White-thighed Colobus) one of the most endangered African primate species and the Olive (or Green) Colobus species. Habitat destruction and poaching of these two Colobus monkeys for meat and skins is threatening their survival. They also found the critically endangered frog species, the Togo Slippery Frog, which only inhabits streams in moist tropical forests and is restricted to some parts of Togo and Ghana.

As well, 17 rare butterfly species were discovered in the Atiwa Forest, including the amazing Giant African Swallow-tail, which has the widest butterfly wingspan in the world and the Atiwa Dotted Border, which is restricted to Atiwa and is one of the rarest butterflies in Africa and is considered to be critically endangered.

The Atiwa Forest Reserve also contains many birds that are rare elsewhere in Ghana including the Afep Pigeon, Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, African Broadbill, Common Bristlebill, Blue-headed Crested-flycatcher, Spotted Honeyguide and Least Honeyguide.

The Atiwa rainforest also supplies five million people with drinking water. And forest dwellers rely on it for food, medicine, building materials, tools and clothing. The forest cover also serves the country and its inhabitants by providing protection against floods and drought.

But this unique rainforest treasure is now under threat. This is because the Atiwa Forest is also rich in minerals, with sizeable bauxite deposits that the government wants to develop and mine. A total of 260 square kilometres of Atiwa have been declared a forest.

Next article – On eve of local elections, US undermines Venezuela

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