With Covid-19 restrictions still in force in Ghana, which has led to the closure of all national parks, many would have expected that, wildlife animals would be given some space to also enjoy their freedom from human attack or poaching.
But, they have not been spared in the ongoing catastrophe of biodiversity loss, as their populations have come under increasing pressure from encroaching humans and several animal species are on the brink of extinction.
Apart from the Eastern Region of Ghana which these hunters continue to operate with impunity, the Northern Belt of the country has in recent time continue to record cases of the Killing of wildlife species including elephants.
Elephants in the northern part of Ghana belong to the group of shared species that move in the contiguous forest between Ghana and Burkina Faso.
In May 20, 2020, an elephant, an endangered wildlife species, was found dead at Vamboi in the Sissala East District of the Upper West Region, believed to have been hunted down by poachers for its tusk.
“Four Ghanaian poachers are currently in court on criminal charges for allegedly killing the elephant”, Executive-Director for the wildlife division of the forestry commission, Bernard Asamoah-Boateng told Journalists in Accra.
He revealed that, an investigation by personnel of the wildlife division, supported by the police and military, led to the arrest of the four suspects.
The suspects allegedly shot and killed the middle-aged male elephant, which was part of a herd traveling from Burkina Faso to Ghana on April 13. They dismembered the carcass and took away its tusks and other parts.
According to Mr Boateng Elephants are highly protected by law in Ghana, and trading in their parts is prohibited.
“The poachers took advantage of the restriction on movements introduced to combat COVID-19 in Ghana to break the law on protected species”, said Asamoah-Boateng.
In Ghana, according to the Wildlife Reserves regulations LI 710, it is illegal for anybody to enter and hunt, capture or destroy any plant or animal in any wildlife reserve without written permission from the authority. This makes all forms of hunting in the wildlife reserves illegal.
But, many research works and media reports have confirmed to an already existing attack on several animals species, with most on them on the brink off extinction.
For example, a study conducted by Edward Debrah Wiafe of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Management, Presbyterian University College Akropong-Akuapem, Ghana, and published by Journal of Threatened Taxa, titled “Hunted species and hunting equipment”, confirmed high cases of illegal attack on many wildlife species.
The study investigated species that are hunted in protected rainforest areas and the methods used to hunt them, using data obtained by recording items in the possession of 17 poachers arrested in Kakum Conservation Area in Ghana over a period of 12 months. In all 12 species were recorded among 69 total animals. Most were mammals, including primates. Shotguns and wire snares were the main hunting methods used and Primates were found to be prominent among the animals poached.
According to the study within a period of 12 months in the year 2018 alone, 17 poachers were arrested by the wildlife protection rangers on 13 different occasions.
The harvest of wild meat (bushmeat) by subsistence hunters in many parts of Ghana has also resulted in conspicuous population declines and extinctions of many wildlife species.
The Wildlife Division of the Ghana Forestry Commission is blaming lack of personnel for the continuous killing of wildlife species, especially at the various national parks across the country.
The Executive-Director for the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission, Bernard Asamoah-Boateng is therefore urging rural communities to assist personnel of the wildlife division by volunteering information on people who break the law on wildlife in Ghana.
Story By Awudu S.S. Yoda