In his recent book, Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, acclaimed biologist and author E.O. Wilson lists Ghana’s Atewa Forest as one of the 38 most important places on Earth that should be set aside for nature’s benefit. The forest is teeming with life, home to at least 50 mammal species, more than 1,000 species of plants, at least 230 species of birds and more than 570 butterflies—and many of these are found nowhere else in the world.
For these reasons, E.O. Wilson this year penned a letter to Ghana President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo asking him to establish Atewa as a national park, forever protecting it from the looming threat of bauxite mining. Bauxite is the chief ingredient in aluminum and sits beneath the forest floor—mining it would require tearing up the forest and leaving it permanently barren.
Atewa’s impressive biodiversity has earned it the designation of a Key Biodiversity Area, a site of global importance to the planet’s overall health. As a member of the Key Biodiversity Area Partnership, we joined a number of other KBA partners to urge Ghana’s president to protect Atewa Forest as a national park or risk endangering the large number of species that call the forest home.
“GWC is proud to join A Rocha, other KBA partnership organizations and local community members in calling for the protection of Atewa Forest, one of Ghana’s unique natural treasures,” says Penny Langhammer, our director of Key Biodiversity Areas and Species Assessment. “Designating Atewa as a national park would be a powerful way for Ghana to show that it is a leader in meeting the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals and to set an example for the rest of the world in safeguarding our planet’s irreplaceable places.”
Here are a few of the incredible species that call Atewa Forest home:
In May of 2017, international organization A Rocha, which connects communities for conservation, caught on camera trap the Critically Endangered White-naped Mangabey. This was the first time scientists had seen the species in Atewa Forest. Populations of these special ground-dwelling, sideburn-sporting monkeys have declined by more than 50 percent in the last three decades as the result of habitat loss and hunting.
“The discovery of the White-naped Mangabey in Atewa Forest is of enormous importance for the future of the species,” Russ Mittermeier, our Chief Conservation Officer and chair of the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group wrote in a letter to Ghana’s president, Nana Akkufo-Addo, to encourage the government to re-consider mining. “Since the extraction of bauxite will require the forest to be removed, this would certainly lead to the loss of this rare primate.”
Togo Slippery Frog
The Togo Slippery Frog is a close relative of the world’s largest frog, the Goliath Frog, and known only to live in Atewa Forest and Ghana’s Togo-Volta Hills. The frog is considered Critically Endangered as the result of ongoing bauxite mining, logging and hunting. Biologists believe there are only about 300 left in the wild and that they primarily live in a small stretch of a single stream in Atewa Forest.
Afia Birago Puddle Frog
The Afia Birago Puddle Frog was discovered only in 2017, but could already be in trouble if the Ghanaian government allows bauxite mining in Atewa Forest. The frog has a slender body and pointed snout, with a black-spotted throat. Biologists suspect that once they’ve conducted a thorough survey, the amphibian will be listed as Critically Endangered and are urging immediate protection of Atewa Forest.
Atewa Dotted Border
Atewa Forest is home to an astounding 570 species of butterflies, including the Atewa Dotted Border, which is one of the rarest butterflies in Africa and known only from Atewa Forest. Bauxite mining would result in a rapid decline of the species, pushing its IUCN Red List classification from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered.
This beauty, the Blue-moustached Bee-eater is from the rainforests of West Africa, including Atewa Forest. Its populations continue to crash as the result of ongoing habitat loss from logging for timber and agriculture. And yep, they do eat bees! (In addition to other flying insects.)