Protecting Globally Imperiled Amphibians in the Highland Forests of Ghana
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Critically Endangered Togo Slippery Frog. Photo by Herp Conservation Ghana
The Togo-Volta Hills of Ghana near the border of Togo contain many species isolated from the more expansive rainforest blocks to the west and east. The unique biodiversity of this region makes it a priority conservation site for endemic plants and animals. The Critically Endangered Togo Slippery Frog’s extremely limited distribution lies within these forests, and the Endangered Ukami Reed Frog depends on this area as well. Critically Endangered Hooded Vultures, Vulnerable Black-bellied and White-bellied Pangolins and a plethora of endemic butterfly and amphibian species all reside within this forested habitat.
Due to a lack of extensive exploration, the area is expected to harbor even greater populations of threatened, endemic and possible new species. Despite their biodiversity value, the forests have no formal protection and are severely threatened by habitat conversion from logging, charcoal production, slash-and-burn agriculture and disruption of aquatic ecosystems.
Rainforest Trust and our local partner Herp Conservation Ghana seek $237,119 to support the establishment of the 789-acre Amedzofe Amphibian Sanctuary in the Togo-Volta Hills. In collaboration with residents of Amedzofe and other villages, local government officials and Wildlife Division staff, our partner will develop a management plan, community rangers will be trained and equipped and alternative water sources for communities will be created to prevent further degradation of the forest stream and associated habitat. In addition, biological surveys will be conducted in adjacent forested areas to assess the potential enlargement of the sanctuary and creation of a future Community Resource Management Area (CREMA) around the sanctuary.
Endangered Ukami Reed Frog. Photo by Herp Conservation Ghana
The proposed Amphibian Sanctuary is among the few forest habitats remaining in the Dahomey Gap, a savannah corridor that separates the Upper and Lower Guinea forests. It contains many forest species isolated from the more expansive rainforest blocks to the west and east and is a priority conservation site.
The Critically Endangered Togo Slippery Frog is endemic to the proposed conservation site and the adjoining forest in the Republic of Togo. Another population of this species was thought to have been discovered in Ghana on Atewa Mountain in 2007. Recent genetic research revealed that the populations at Atewa and the Togo-Volta Hills are two different species. This finding emphasizes the extremely limited distribution and imperiled status of the Togo Slippery Frog. Another highly endemic amphibian, the Endangered Ukami Reed Frog, is adapted to waterfalls in undisturbed forest sites and resides within the Togo-Volta Hills. Due to the increasing rarity of its specialized habitat, the proposed protected area is critical to the long-term survival of this frog. The Baumann’s Reed Frog is also endemic to the Togo-Volta Hills, and although the Togo Toad is a common amphibian in the proposed sanctuary, it is extremely rare in other localities within Ghana and Togo.
In addition to these frogs, the proposed protected area will also provide refuge for the Critically Endangered Hooded Vulture and Vulnerable Black-bellied and White-bellied Pangolins. As of now, less than 15 percent of the proposed site’s surface area has been studied (only 106 acres of the proposed protected area’s surface area of 789 acres). There have been confirmations of 64 bird species, 20 amphibian species and 56 butterfly species (some of which may be new to science), but there has been no formal investigation of the mammal diversity. Despite hunting pressures, a small population of the Lowe’s Mona Monkey thrives in the proposed conservation site. An upcoming biodiversity survey of key species groups that will take place as part of this project is expected to result in a further expansion of the proposed Amphibian Sanctuary.
Woodcutting. Photo by Herp Conservation Ghana
Conservation meeting at Amedzofe village. Photo by Herp Conservation Ghana
The ancestors of the people of Amedzofe, Gbajemeh and Kpedzi villages are believed to have migrated from Binni in northern Nigeria to Togo at the beginning of the 18th century. They eventually migrated to Ghana. Their predominant form of land use is cultivating crops of maize, cassava, bananas and beans. Ecotourism is becoming an increasingly popular economic activity in the region as tourists come to see a beautiful chain of mountainous landscape and charismatic wildlife, including primates. Because ecotourism depends on the preservation and sustainable use of ecosystems, the concept of community-based wildlife management is well-known in the surrounding communities.
The forest stream is currently a major source of clean water for rural communities in the proposed protected area. Water-gathering and washing in the stream have negative impacts on wildlife – specifically frog habitat. This project will improve the community water supply by constructing two solar-powered, underground water wells. Increased access to clean water in the communities will have both ecological and social benefits. First, it will reduce human dependence on the forest stream, as well as frog habitat degradation. Second, these wells will reduce the time it takes women and children to collect water.
Dr. Caleb Ofori Boateng, Executive Director of Herp Conservation Ghana, finding a Critically Endangered Togo Slippery Frog. Photo by Herp Conservation Ghana
Rainforest Trust and our local partner seek $237,119 to support the establishment of the 789-acre Amedzofe Amphibian Sanctuary in the Togo-Volta Hills. Community Management Committees and a Protected Area Management Board will be created to support the sanctuary, and community rangers will be trained to monitor the site. In addition, alternative water sources for communities will be created to prevent further degradation of the forest stream and habitat. Our local partner will work with the Village Council of Elders, the heads of family lands, local tourism boards, a local church which donated land, the District Assembly and the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission during the entire protected area designation process. They will use the spatial Management Information System (MIST) to support the management of the protected area. MIST is currently being used by the Ghana Wildlife Division to manage data for all protected areas in the country. Fauna, flora and socio-economic surveys will be conducted to generate data to develop a management plan, investigate a probable expansion of the amphibian sanctuary and potentially create a new community-managed protected area as a buffer zone to the sanctuary.