A large herd of elephants were on Saturday, April 17, 2021, seen crossing the Bolgatanga-Bawku road, sparking joy among the people living close to the area.
The elephants are part of a transnational migrating elephant population that shift at will between Ghana, Burkina Faso and Togo. In Ghana they migrate along the Red and White Voltas, as well as the Morago and Sisili River Corridors.
The Red Volta elephant range, which includes the Red Volta, White Volta, and Morago River valleys in the Upper East Region of Ghana, harbors the third largest population of African elephant (Loxodonta africana africana) in Ghana. The Red Volta elephant population is considered one of the few viable populations of the savanna elephant in Ghana and there had always been the call to give the priority conservation the needed attention.
Gallery forest reserves along the above-mentioned rivers and bordering savanna woodland/ grassland are the major vegetation types within the elephant range. The forest reserves and bordering savanna vegetation also form an internationally important elephant migratory corridor linking the Red Volta range to elephant ranges in the Republic of Togo and the Republic of Burkina Faso and thereby allowing cross-border movement of elephants among the three countries. The IUCN/AfESG had since proposed the development of a corridor linking the Red Volta Range to the Kabore Tambi National Park and the Nazinga Ranch in southern Burkina Faso, and to the Fosse Aux Lion National Park in northern Togo. The Red Volta range was also being considered by the IUCN as a pilot site for the Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants.
Even though many people were happy when the elephants were spotted crossing over to Ghana, their movement into the unprotected areas raised concern among some members of the public over their safety, especially when the area is noted for elephant crop-raiding.
Factors leading to such human elephant conflict include crop damage by elephants and the killing of elephants by humans. There is also the issue of insufficient understanding among farmers of the raiding movement of elephants in the range and the proximity of farm plots to the forest reserve boundary which forms the core habitat of elephants among many other factors.
We are not herding them but they are safe
Speaking in an exclusive interview with ghenvironment.org over the safety of the elephants, the Wildlife Manager in the five Northern Regions including the Upper East Region, Mr Joseph Binlinla assured that, the elephants are safe in the Ghanaian territory.
He said, the Wildlife Rangers in the area are on the ground working to ensure their safety in the country. “We are not herding them but I can assure you that, they are safe because we know where they are”, he added.
He said, Ghana is a signatory to the Convention of Migratory Species and it is imperative that, they protect the elephants in the territory of Ghana.
On the possible destruction of food crops in the area, Mr Binlinla indicated that, the Chiefs in the area have been informed of the presence of the elephants to mitigate any elephant crop raiding for the mutual benefit of humans and wildlife, adding that, the traditional leaders are also being engaged to take advantage of the presence of the elephants for eco-tourism.
African elephant species now Endangered and Critically Endangered
Following population declines over several decades due to poaching for ivory and loss of habitat, the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) is now listed as Critically Endangered and the African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana) as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The IUCN Red List is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species, using a set of criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies.
Before this historic update in March this year, African elephants were treated as a single species, listed as Vulnerable and this is the first time the two species have been assessed separately for the IUCN Red List, following the emergence of new genetic evidence.
The IUCN Red List now includes 134,425 species of which 37,480 are threatened with extinction.
By Awudu Salami Sulemana Yoda
Citations: Patrick Adjewodah, Andy Murphy and John Mason, Nature Conservation Research Centre.