West African Primate Conservation Action (WAPCA) aims at the conservation of two highly endangered primate species, the Roloway Monkey (Cercopithecus diana roloway) and the White-naped Mangabey (Cercocebus atys lunulatus), which are endemic to rainforest areas in Ghana and Ivory Coast. The populations of Roloway guenons and White-naped mangabeys in captivity serve as prominent “flagship species” for the entire ecosystem of the Upper Guinean Forest with its unique biodiversity of plant and animal species. As examples of their wild relatives these monkeys serve to sensitise zoo visitors of the need for biodiversity conservation.
The NGO WAPCA is formed by an association of 11 European Zoos, conservation organizations and individuals. WAPCA implements conservation activities primarily in Ghana, and more recently, preliminary work has begun in Ivory Coast. In Ghana, there are both in-situ and ex-situ conservation projects in progress. As an in-situ project, the Endangered Primate Centre (EPC) is a facility which houses monkeys as part of an internationally coordinated breeding program for endangered species (EEP). This is located in Achimota Forest Reserve, Accra and forms part of a newly developed mini-Zoo, which it’s hoped, will eventually become a full-sized, modern facility.
The sites where WAPCA is conducting ex-situ conservation activites are situated in and around several Protected Areas in the Western Region of Ghana. The forests found in these areas are the natural habitat of the Roloway monkeys and White-naped Mangabeys. Some of the conservation activities WAPCA is implementing in these areas include research to determine the current status of populations, capacity building with Wildlife Division, an awareness campaign in villages bordering the Protected Areas and work on the development of alternative, sustainable livelihoods.
In close collaboration with WAPCA’s main local partners the Wildlife Division, and local NGO, Friends of National Zoos (FONZ) , WAPCA has constructed and advised on the management of the Endangered Primate Centre since 2005. The centre houses several groups of White-naped Mangabeys and one pair of Roloway Monkeys. The monkeys are registered as part of the European Breeding Program for Endangered Species (EEP) and in the context of this; they are transferred between Accra and European Zoos to enhance the genetic variiability of captive populations.
The group sizes, particularly of the mangabeys, is growing continuously thanks to new births and confiscations of animals which are found being sold as part of the bushmeat trade or illegally held as pets. The EPC provides a well equipped facility for the monkeys, as well as being a valuable resource for educational purposes. The centre helps to educate visitors about the plight of endangered species and the threats to nature caused by humans.
Research projects in the monkeys’ natural habitat enable us to evaluate the current status of the remaining populations of endangered species. Long term surveying and monitoring provides data which can then be used to concentrate conservation efforts in particular areas. Close collaboration with the Wildlife Division and supply of equipment improves the rangers patrol work in the forest. To attract more tourists to the Protected Areas, WAPCA has built facilities such as a game viewing hide and an education trail in the Ankasa Conservation Area which will enable tourists to visit the forest and remember it as a unique experience. Projects in the communities which border the forests, aim at the development of sustainable livelihoods and raising awareness about the issues affecting wildlife. Whilst local people need to be aware of the value of the forest and the importance of protecting it it is equally important, or even more so, to develop income generating activities which provide a viable alternative to hunting and exploitation of forest resources.