Poaching in Ghana: tracing the trails of carnage
Information on poaching activities can be used to inform decisions on protected area security operations, and to draw the attention of conservationists towards species that are heavily hunted.
The making of animal merchants
Since the beginning of the 20th century, land has been demarcated for conservation in Africa with little or no regard for its impact on the livelihood of fringe communities. As a result, these communities were alienated from the resources upon which their material well-being depended. Instead of re-investment of the revenues derived from wildlife back into the area, they were channelled into the government’s central treasury. This situation has compelled many local hunters to operate clandestinely for personal gain and many people into unlawful, concealed economy.
In Ghana, according to Wildlife Reserves regulations, it is illegal for anybody to enter & hunt, capture, or destroy any plant or animal in any wildlife reserve without written permission from the authorities. This makes all forms of hunting in wildlife reserves illegal. The conservation area uses conventional law enforcement in the form of foot patrols that frequently emanate from protection camps.
From 2012 to 2013, 17 poachers were arrested by the wildlife protection rangers from Kakum Conservation Area (KCA) in Ghana on 13 different occasions, mostly in the months of July and May. This study aimed to investigate the animal species poached and the methods used for poaching at KCA by analysing field patrol data and recording poaching activity from arrested poachers.
The trails of carnage
The presence of carbide powder, which is used to power up devices to generate light, gave an indication of night hunting. Empty cartridges from shotguns and the sound of gunshots were also indicators of hunting activity. Though not very reliable, poachers’ footprints were differentiated from those of rangers, who used special boots.
Permanent and temporary poaching camps were identified during field visits. A temporary camp, usually erected by subsistence hunters, has no shelter — the hunters simply surround a fire to smoke meat and warm themselves. A permanent camp, erected by commercial hunters, has a thatched roof and is used for several months or years until detection by rangers or abandonment by the poachers themselves.
The major hunting equipment used by the arrested poachers were shotguns and wire snares. The use of a shotgun is effective, especially for arboreal species located high up in trees. Though it produces a lot of noise by which rangers would be alerted, the hunters mostly risked using the shotgun owing to its high efficiency and selectivity. To avoid being arrested, the hunters sometimes depended on the use of wire snares, which are silent but dangerous because it is elusive and non-selective.
The catastrophe of biodiversity loss
The total number of animals found harvested was 69 individuals of 12 species, with an average off-take of 5.8 animals per month. Primates in general and Lowe’s Monkeys, in particular, were found to feature prominently in the catches of the hunters in KCA, one being featured in every five animals hunted. The populations of primates have come under increasing pressure from encroaching humans and several species are on the brink of extinction.
Wiafe, E.D. (2018). Hunted species and hunting equipment used by rainforest poachers in Ghana. Journal of Threatened Taxa 10(2): 11285–11289; https://doi.org/10.11609/jott.34184.108.40.20685-11289