Habitat conversion intensifies human elephant conflicts in the Eastern Wildlife Corridor, Ghana
Ghana was ranged by fairly large herds of elephants up until the 1970s (Douglas-Hamilton 1979). At one time elephants were found throughout the country but, as elsewhere on the continent, elephant habitat contracted during the 20th century. Today both the African savannah elephant (Loxodonta africana) and the African forest elephant (L. cyclotis) are still found, respectively, in the savannah and forest zones of Ghana. However, the populations are now confined to a few Protected Areas (PAs) and isolated remnant habitats, mainly due to human population pressure and related land use and land cover changes (AfESG 2000). Elephants are also killed illegally by poachers for the ivory trade, which dates back to ancient times (Parker 1973). By 2000, there were only eleven elephant population ranges in the country, with an estimated population of 1,000–2,000 individuals (WD 2000). These trends call for drastic and far-reaching elephant conservation efforts, including effective anti-poaching measures with more supportive legislation, and community-based land-use planning to foster harmonious human–elephant coexistence (HECx) in the country.
Ghana has exhibited zeal for the conservation of the African elephant, both domestically and on the international front. Ghana was the first country to propose listing of African elephants in Appendix 1 of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). The country is also signatory to other international conventions, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn Convention) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), among others. In July 2008, Ghana entered into a bilateral cooperation agreement in the form of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Republic of Burkina Faso for the purpose of conserving natural resources shared by the two countries, including savannah elephants.
In 2000, the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission of Ghana, in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and IUCN’s African Elephant Specialist Group (AfESG), developed an Elephant Conservation Strategy as a guide to ensure the conservation and survival of viable elephant populations and their habitats throughout the country. This strategy informed studies conducted of elephant migratory corridors by the Northern Savannah Biodiversity Conservation Project (NSBCP), under the auspices of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the World Bank, between 2002 and 2009. These studies identified two main elephant migratory routes between Burkina Faso and northern Ghana, which were designated the Eastern and Western Wildlife Corridors (EWWC). The forests and wildlife in the corridors are jointly managed by the Forest Services Division (FSD) and Wildlife Division (WD) of the Forestry Commission.
This article provides a summary description of the EWWC, presents data on human–elephant conflict in the Eastern Wildlife Corridor, and discusses approaches to mitigate conflicts and ensure the survival of the elephant population in the corridor.
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