Scientists have discovered the globally threatened White-naped Mangabey (Cercocebus lunulatus) in Ghana’s Atewa Forest. The mangabey, a rare terrestrial monkey, is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, but a recent assessment of its population points toward it being a step closer to extinction. The primate was known to live in only a few sites in western Ghana, eastern Cote d’Ivoire and southern Burkina Faso, but was recently discovered by A Rocha scientists in the Atewa Forest using camera traps.
This newly discovered population of this endangered monkey is of enormous importance for the future of the species, but the Government of Ghana with the Government of China want to push ahead with plans to extract bauxite – the ore of aluminium – from the Atewa Hills at Kyebi.
In a letter to the President of Ghana dated 15 December, Dr Russ Mittermeier, Chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Primate Specialist Group, writes: “It is a matter of some urgency that the forest is properly protected both from hunting and from habitat change… I urge that Ghana’s commitments to the Convention on Biological Diversity and to the Sustainable Development Goals take precedence in this case and that Atewa Forest is removed from mining plans once and for all and made into a National Park.”
Bauxite cannot be extracted using a low impact method. The hilltops of Atewa will be completely removed during the mining process, thereby destroying all the vegetation and associated fauna. Re-establishment of the original flora and fauna on areas that have once been mined is virtually impossible especially with highly complex and biologically rich forests like Atewa.
“Extracting bauxite from Atewa Forest is incompatible with biodiversity conservation and the ecosystem services that the forest provides. It will spell the end of the unique and irreplaceable species that the forest contains,” says Jan Kamstra of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Netherlands.
Atewa Forest harbours a high diversity of threatened and endemic species including birds, mammals, reptiles, butterflies and amphibians. In recent months, the high economic value of the ecosystem services that Atewa Forest provides to many Ghanaians was highlighted in a 2016 report to the Government of Ghana titled The Economics of the Atewa Forest Range, Ghana. Chief amongst these services is the clean water supply flowing from the Atewa hills on which over five million Ghanaians depend.