Critically Endangered primate discovered in bauxite-threatened Atewa Forest Ghana

19 December 2017

Scientists have discovered the globally threatened White-naped Mangabey (Cercocebus lunulatus) in Ghana’s Atewa Forest. The mangabey is one of the 25 most threatened species of ape worldwilde and is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species. Ironically, the Ghanaian government intends to open up the forest - which provides a habitat for these and other rare species - for bauxite extraction.

The rare terrestrial primate was captured by a camera trap during a research by A Rocha into the current biodiversity in the bauxite-threatened forest. “The white-naped Mangabey is one of the 25 most threatened species of ape worldwide. It is an exciting discovery that this primate lives in the Atewa forest,” says Jan Kamstra of IUCN NL. “The sad news is that the Ghanaian government intends to sacrifice this habitat for the extraction of bauxite, the ore of aluminium.”

Rare vegetation offers habitat for endangered species

Atewa is home to 18 threatened and 13 near threatened species, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and plants. The Atewa forest has an extremely rare vegetation that harbours a high diversity of species. The area contains more than 860 species of plants and more than 570 species of butterflies.

Additionally, this internationally recognized unique piece of nature provides water to more than five million people in Ghana and supports the livelihoods of local communities living on the forest fringes. This makes it even more concerning that the government of Ghana with the government of China wants to push ahead with plans to extract bauxite from the Atewa Hills.

Costs and benefits

In order to prevent development in the area proceeding at the expense of water security and other valuable ecosystem services provided by the forest, IUCN NL and its partner organization A Rocha Ghana are advocating for protection of Atewa forest. In 2016, an economic valuation study demonstrated the costs and benefits of current developments in the Atewa Range compared to potential alternatives. “The study provides economic arguments to back the plea of local communities and NGOs to increase the protection status to a National Park,” says Kamstra. “We hope this helps us counter the lobby to exploit the bauxite from this unique forest reserve.”

The white-naped Mangabey is known to live in only a handful of sites in western Ghana, eastern Cote d’Ivoire and southern Burkina Faso. Main threats to this species are loss of habitat and hunting for the bush-meat trade.

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