The Upper Guinean Rainforest
The Upper Guinean Rainforest constitutes a 350 km wide strip of West African coastal rainforest stretching from Sierra Leone to the Ghana-Togo border and is listed as one of the IUCN’s 25 Key Biodiversity Areas, WWF’s Global Spot region, a Conservation International Biodiversity Hotspot, and one of Birdlife International’s Important Bird Areas. The IUCN 25 Key Biodiversity Areas cover only 1.4 % of the Earth’s surface but contain more than 60% of all animal and plant species found on this planet. The Upper Guinean Rainforest is one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the African continent supporting over 1800 endemic plants, 31 endemic threatened birds, 35 endemic threatened mammals and 49 endemic threatened amphibians.
Within the eastern portion of the Upper Guinean forest, relatively large areas of lowland rain forest are now almost entirely confined to eastern Côte d’Ivoire and western Ghana. These forests form a secodary area of endemism and are home to a number of threatened primate species including:
Roloway monkey (Cercopithecus roloway)
White-naped mangabey (Cercocebus lunulatus)
Miss Waldron’s red colobus (Procolobus waldroni) - possibly extinct
Geoffrey’s black and white colobus (Colobus vellerosus)
Eastern lesser spot-nosed monkey (Cercopithecus petaurista) (pictured)
Lowe’s monkey (Cercopithecus lowei)
Olive colobus (Procolobus verus)
Additionally, other unique mammals, such as zebra duiker (Cephalophus zebra), royal antelope (Neotragus pygmaeus), Liberian mongoose (Liberiictis kuhni), Dephua mouse (Dephomys eburnea), white-throated shrew (Crocidura wimmeri) and the Togo mouse (Leimacomys buettneri) are also present here.
Deforestation is the greatest threat to both the environment and wildlife dependent upon the rainforests of West Africa. According to a recent CEPF Ecosystem Report, the Upper Guinean Forests has been reduced to a mere 15% of its original forest cover. Logging, unsustainable and poor practice agriculture in cocoa and palm oil, illegal mining termed “galamsey”, and human encroachment have left fragmented remnants of rainforest. Studies of legal and illegal logging in Ghana have shown an increase of 600% in 15 years. Illegal logging is the most devastating threat as it is wholly unmanaged with no discretion for tree species, age or size. Illegal logging is carried out by two sources – 1/3 is carried out by legal companies who remove more than their quota or take from protected areas and 2/3 is carried out by illegal chainsaw operators, operating anyway they can access by road. According Global Forest Watch between 2001 and 2014 Ghana lost more than half a million hectares, around 9% of its total forest cover.
Extensive bush meat hunting for both local consumption and export to other countries, estimates of the bush meat trade run as high as $400 million per year in Ghana and $500 million in Côte d’Ivoire, has caused a massive decline in the wildlife populations of West Africa. Wildlife populations in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are disappearing at such an alarming rate that many of the remaining rainforest habitats have become nearly devoid of mammal species, causing conservationists to now label these forests as “empty forests”.
The unique fauna and flora found within these areas of rainforest have long been under the stress of deforestation and overhunting and with diminishing forest cover in which to retreat, wildlife within these sparse forests are finding no place left to hide.
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