Game Warden

West Africa’s best wildlife parks

43 posts in this topic

While there may not be many regular tourists who care about the difference between a topi and a korrigum or a kongoni and a western hartebeest there are plenty of hunters who do and will want to have one of each to decorate their trophy room wall. Korrigum are actually quite rare in Pendjari rare enough that I don’t actually think they can be hunted in Benin at least none of the hunting websites I’ve looked at offer korrigum. I think if you really need to bag one you can go to northern Cameroon, whatever the case hunters will travel to the Pendjari area to shoot different species and subspecies of antelopes to those available in the East and South. For some reason I missed red-flanked duiker off the list of mammals at Pendjari as I know this species endemic to West Africa is a popular target for hunters visiting Benin.

 

I may also be the case that hunting is rather cheaper in Benin, it certainly can be in neighbouring Burkina Faso, I’ve just read about an outfit in Burkina that offers self-guided hunts, hunters go out on foot after buffalo, roan, hartebeest etc with a couple of local trackers but no PH. This obviously cuts down the cost considerably I just hope they make sure that hunters can shoot properly before they go out because the trackers are only there to track if the hunter makes a mess of trying kill a buffalo then it’s up to the hunter to sort it out. My concern of course is for the poor buffalo and maybe the trackers, if the hunter gets disembowelled by a well placed horn well so be it. I for one would have a lot more respect for hunters if I knew that they were genuinely risking their lives to secure their trophy, danger and excitement makes more sense to me than the desire to collect dead animals.

 

Self-guided hunting in Burkina Faso

 

 

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@@inyathi

 

I guess you are a lucky owner of Estes's latest " Mammals of Africa" ( I still have to buy it).

 

Do you know what it says about the differences (if any) between a Korrigum and a Tiang? damaliscus living in Chad, CAR and South Sudan are called tiang, but I am unsure whether it is really a different subspecies from korrigum, or just a naming issue.

 

I had read about self guided hunting in Burkina Faso a while ago. To my knowledge it is quite a unique situation.

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Posted (edited)

I’ve always been a fan of Jonathon Kingdon’s books and artworks so I had to get MOA, Estes is just one of the many authors he contributed the entry on sable.

 

The entry for topis Damaliscus lunatus is written by Patrick Duncan not a name I’m familiar with. According to the book D. l. tiang occurs from Ethiopia west to Chad and D. l. korrigum from Western Chad/Cameroon westwards. The korrigum is the largest of the various races with longest horns the tiang is a little smaller redder in colour and has more slender horns. There are other differences (as you’ll discover when you buy the books @@Paolo I didn’t want to copy out the full descriptions. :)) though the differences are clearly not enough to be worth illustrating. Sadly most of the map of West Africa is blank it seems that the population of korrigums in and around the WAP maybe about the only population surviving west of Cameroon, outside of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger they're basically extinct.

 

Looking at hunting websites they often list subspecies particularly of antelopes that I suspect many zoologists would no longer consider valid, but perhaps I’m wrong. To the serious collectors minor differences really matter so I guess hunting outfits have to be specific about diiferent subspecies to attract this kind of hunter.

Edited by inyathi
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Mole National Park in the north west of Ghana at 466,200ha is much larger than Pendjari predominantly comprised of wooded savannah and gallery forest like many parks in Africa Mole largely owes its existence to our friend the tsetse fly. Mole’s gallery forests provide a home for the white-thighed (Geoffroy’s pied) colobus not found in Pendjari but otherwise the wildlife is basically the same except that korrigum and cheetah are both absent. In general the herbivores in Mole like elephants, buffalos and roan are actually doing quite well and the park supports the largest populations of these animals in Ghana. Sadly the same cannot be said of large carnivores wild dogs are extinct and it would seem that lions are also now probably also extinct.

 

So you might wonder why Mole which no longer has lions can attract over 16,000 visitors around two and a half times the number Pendjari gets, well I suspect the answer is simply that Ghana gets more tourists than Benin. While you’ve now no chance of seeing a lion there, at the right time of year you’re guaranteed to see elephants. Mole supports the largest population of savannah elephants left in Ghana and from the Mole Motel you can go for a walk with a park ranger/s who will take you extremely close to them. For many visitors this is the big attraction of Mole because while you may be able to get up close to elephants on foot elsewhere in Africa I don’t suppose there’s anywhere you can do it quite as cheaply as at Mole. For budget travellers visiting Mole may be their only chance to have this kind of elephant experience.

 

Another major attraction is birds Mole is home to more bird species than any other park in Ghana and is therefore a popular destination for birdwatchers. Except for the addition of a good few forest species the birds in Mole are probably much the same as those in Pendjari. However because Ghana is a rainforest country on a Ghana tour birders have the chance to see a variety of rainforest birds like white-breasted guinea fowl and white-necked picathartes amongst others, birds that can’t be found in Benin. This is why Ghana and Mole are on the birding map.

 

At first the thought that Mole gets so many more visitors despite having no lions made me more hopeful about Pendjari and its potential and about West Africa generally. Now I’m not so sure it seems that in the last few years visitor numbers in Mole have declined dropping to around 14,000, despite the fact that the park management were projecting that visitor numbers would reach 100,000 by the end of 2010, this might suggest they have a rather poor grasp of reality.

 

Assessment of Visitor Satisfaction in Mole National Park, Ghana

 

 

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As in Pendjari there aren’t enough visitors to pay for the park and though there is some hunting elsewhere in Ghana Mole doesn’t have hunting to fall back on. Is it any wonder that there aren’t enough tourists when the roads up to Mole are absolutely terrible, and the majority of the park away from the Mole Motel is almost entirely undeveloped so game driving is very limited? Mole NP is the one major tourist attraction in this part of Ghana and really the only reason tourists go right up to the north of the country so it’s ridiculous that the infrastructure is not better. The problem is not just the roads, the Mole Motel is basically the only place to stay (except for guesthouses in the village of Labaranga) and unfortunately Judging by the reviews on tripadvisor it is pretty substandard though it does have great views and provides the opportunity to watch elephants coming to the nearby waterholes.

 

Apparently there are plans to turn the motel which is run by the government into a ‘world class establishment’ though reading about travel in Ghana one wonders if anyone in Ghana really knows what that is. Having said that apparently back in 2006 a Tanzanian based company Moivaro signed a deal with the Ghanaian government to take over the Motel improve and expand it and also construct an entirely new 160 bed lodge in or near the park (as well as an 80 bed lodge near Kakum NP in the south). I can’t at the moment see any evidence on the web to suggest that any of this has happened but if it does and the road up to the park is upgraded and plans to put in more roads through the park go ahead then this will undoubtedly increase visitor numbers significantly.

 

Will visitor numbers ever get up to 100,000 or more?

 

Well they might get part way there but it seems to me there is an obvious problem, no lions. Positive though these developments may be (if they occur) they will have come too late for Mole’s lions and great though elephants and roan antelopes are what a lot of tourists will want to see is lions.

 

The nearest population of lions to Mole was in Comoé NP in Ivory Coast, West Africa’s largest national park but these lions are also thought to be extinct after the last survey of this park found no evidence of lions. It is possible that there may be a few lions in neighbouring Burkina but really the chances of lions naturally re-colonising Mole now are just about zero. The only way to bring lions back would be through a reintroduction project but are there enough western lions in the WAP or elsewhere to provide new lions for Mole?

 

If there are, can Mole be made truly safe for lions?

 

If local people can reap the benefits of an increase in tourism then maybe they can be persuaded to welcome lions back but I can't see this happening anytime soon.

 

As with Pendjari most of the tourists who do make it to Mole are not exactly what you’d call high value tourists if they really can increase visitor numbers to 100,000 then this wouldn’t matter quite so much. However I can’t really see a world class hotel and lodge catering for budget travellers nor can I see thousands of high value tourists who can choose to go anywhere they want in Africa deciding to go to Mole NP instead of say Ruaha, or the Okavango etc.

 

 

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Mole NP should have the advantage over Pendjari in that there are a good few other parks in Ghana that could be combined with a trip to Mole. However unless perhaps you’re a birder there’s not that much to be gained from visiting the other savannah parks like Bui (soon to be largely destroyed by a hydroelectric dam) Digya and Shai Hills. Digya does have the second largest savannah elephant population but otherwise thanks to meat poaching other animals are pretty scarce or extinct in these parks, there have been for some years plans to restock Shai Hills but nothing has happened.

 

 

In rainforest parks like Ankassa and Kakum aside from birds you may with luck catch sight of some monkeys and squirrels but if you want to see any of the larger terrestrial mammals like duikers for example then I fear you’d be better off visiting the local markets. There are still small populations of bongos, red river hogs, giant forest hogs and forest elephants but you’re very unlikely to see any of them.

 

 

If something can be done to halt the rampant poaching of all mammals (vital to save some of the rarer species from extinction) and it could be made possible for tourists to actually see some of the larger forest species then I think Ghana has the potential to be a great wildlife destination for more than just birders as is the case now. Not perhaps as much potential as Congo (Brazzaville) or Gabon because there are no gorillas and western chimps are virtually extinct in Ghana (I wouldn’t think there’s any chance of seeing any anywhere) but more potential than many other West African countries.

 

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Just catching up on this thread- excellent discussion and information on a part of Africa virtually unknown to most safari enthusiasts. Thanks @@inyati and @@Paolo for lots of good information.

For those of you using iPads and interested in Cameroon, the App Store has a great App on Cameroon and its animals including some superb video. I have had this for a while when it was in English but presently the version available is in French but still worth buying for a couple of bucks. Videos, pictures and sounds of various animals in Waza and other parks. Just type in Cameroon in the App Store.

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@@inyathi

 

Thanks for all information on Mole and other Ghanian parks.

 

I was obviously referring to Kingdon, not Estes. The division between Tiang and Korrigum basically reflects what I knew, but the Korrigum status is very worrting to say the least. Obviously Tiang are doing much better.

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I will be in Mole NP within 2/3 weeks so thanks for all information.

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I will be in Mole NP within 2/3 weeks so thanks for all information.

Have a great time @@Rwenzori!

 

Maybe not the ideal period of the year, but I am sure it will be a very interesting experience. And I am sure not too many Italians have made it to Mole!

 

I really look forward to a detailed trip report when you are back....

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I really look forward to a detailed trip report when you are back....

 

You said it before I could @@Paolo. I'll add, take lots of photos to upload to Safaritalk... ;)

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As I have said in another post I will be there for a sort of internship with a famous Italian zoologist(not Boitani).

 

We will spend our time setting cam traps, collecting data with line transects, studying species ranges, densities and other activities which I was born to do. We will mainly focus on primates, but we will also work on other kind of animals.

 

I will take my camera with me (Canon 7d + Canon EF 70-300 L) but I'm not very optimistic about the photos that I will shoot there.

It will be the final part of wet season so the game will be dispersed and lush vegetation won't help.

 

We will also move on foot so it will be more difficult to get close to the animals. I think I will take many good photos about Elephants, baboons and habituated warthogs. It will be more difficult with Buffon's Kobs and Waterbucks. Nearly impossible with buffaloes and roan antelopes.

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It would be great if you are able to share the cam trap results and some of the findings.

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It would be great if you are able to share the cam trap results and some of the findings.

I don't know if I will be allowed to share cam trap pictures.

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Posted (edited)

On 2013-7-24 at 5:37 PM, inyathi said:

Thanks @michael-ibkfo for that info that does confirm what I feared was probably the case and as @@Paolo says very few of those visitors will be high value tourists.

 

 

 

You probably saw the petition I posted earlier which originated in Germany and was about the foreign aid situation and the threat of poaching.

 

 

Another reason for wanting to write this is that it takes me back to the old hunting debate in which I as a reluctant defender of hunting I questioned the idea that photo tourism can generate more money than hunting. Some of those 70 hunters who go to Pendjari will be after lions; the prevailing view here would probably be that lion hunting is a very bad thing and yet unless something can be done to significantly increase Pendjari’s revenue from photo tourism, the survival of these western lions may very well depend on hunting.

 

 

 

My intention writing this was to draw attention to West Africa and maybe generate a little debate on how to get more tourists to visit and in particular more high value tourists, after all as I may have said already if West Africa’s best park doesn’t get enough tourists what hope is there for all the rest?

 

 

 

What can be done to stop other parks from ending up like Mali’s Boucle de Baoule or Comoe in Ivory Coast (more later) devoid of almost any large animals except livestock?

 

 

A bit about Ghana's Mole NP next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

@inyathi

In 2014 the situation was apparently much better than in 2010 in Comoe National Park, especially concerning livestock encroachment.

I found very little information on the web about it, these last years, the OIPR (in charge of the administration of the protected areas network of Ivory Coast) published each year a report of the job done and the monitoring of key species (elephant and chimpanzee) as well as large mammal trends for buffaloes, kobs and western hartbeast based on transects and aerial surveys.

 

It seems that the hartbeast is the most common species in the park (arround 10.000 animals), followd by kobs (1500 animals) and buffaloes (less than 800 animals). The two first species seem to be on the increase, while the buffaloes population shows a decrease as of 2010. Nonetheless, it is expected that the buffaloe population estimated from aerial survey is a sub-estimation. In fact the report states that buffaloes spend a lot of time in the forest, from where they can't be detected from the plane.

 

In the 2016 report, it is said that cooperation is very strong with Germany (I understand they are renogociating the debt of the country), and that a fund of 10 millions euros has been set to finance the park restoration. I am not sure if this contribution will be set a a trust to finance the park activities after 2018.

 

The park budget increased from 150 millions CFA (230.000 euros) to 300 millions CFA (450.000 euros). It is very low (40 euros/km2), but better.

 

If mammal densities are still very low, the numbers show that I was wrong thinking there was nothing left in the park. The last reports show encouraging news, and that the authorities are interested to show to the UNESCO positive results to remove the park from the list of world heritage in danger. I think I made my ideas with the Henschel report which sounds definitely gloomy, probably due to the time it was made was during the second civil unrest.

 

The 2014 report (emited in January 2015) is here:

https://www.google.cl/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwis9PyplMzUAhUBIJAKHdVvCG4QFgghMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwhc.unesco.org%2Fdocument%2F134914&usg=AFQjCNHPRXbxNQW4K75vZ0UITDds1JiKfQ&sig2=zlnX6zSL8BQBUgIAO-5w7Q

 

Further information is available here:

http://www.wildchimps.org/fileadmin/content_files/pdfs/reports/2012_WCF_annual_report_french_08-04-2013.pdf

Edited by jeremie
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The 41st session of the World Heritage committee of UNESCO removed Comoé National Park from the list of World Heritage sites endangered.

 

It seems that Ivory Coast has done a significant job this last year. New documents have now been updated on the net.

 

Here is the UNESCO press release:

http://en.unesco.org/news/world-heritage-site-comoe-national-park-cote-ivoire-no-longer-danger

 

Here is the April 2017 mission report:

Rapport de mission de suivi réactif conjointe UNESCO/UICN dans le Parc national de la Comoé (Côte d’Ivoire), 3-12 avril 2017

 

Here is the December 2016 conservation status of Comoé elaborated by the OIPR:

 2017

 

I am also happy to read that Simien National Park was removed from the same list, principally because that the Ethiopian government decided to build an alternative road to limit traffic inside the park.

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Please fin enclosed the last aerial surveys conducted in Comoé (2010 - 2014 - 2016).

 

Lapuente research on chimpanzee with camera traps, available in the same report, also confirmed the presence of bongo, golden cat, giant forest hog, bush pig and leopards. These three different species were also observed from during the 2016 aerial survey.

7A - Cote dIvoire - Comoé 20170131 public.pdf

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