Mr Benito Owusu-Bio, the Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, has called for concerted efforts to protect the ecology of the country’s landscapes and restore lost biodiversity.
He said the country’s wildlife resources were no longer able to provide those essential services and called for conscious efforts to reverse the current trend in order not to deprive future generations of benefits of vital natural resources endowment.
“It is sad to state that in spite of all numerous benefits that Wildlife resources provide for our survival, our actions and inactions have led to the massive destruction of Ghana’s wildlife estates. This has put most wildlife and their habitats in great danger,” he said.
He cited Illegal chainsaw operations, illegal mining activities, poaching, bushfires, pollution of water bodies and over exploitation of natural resources as contributing to the current ill-state of wildlife resources.
Mr Owusu-Bio was speaking at the 2020 World Wildlife Day on the theme: “Sustaining All Life on Earth,” which is to help place wildlife and all biodiversity at the fore front of the sustainable development agenda.
The Deputy Minister said beyond the celebration, much work was still needed to sustain the awareness created and called for constant monitoring and surveillance of wildlife resources and protected areas.
“We have to continue to enforce the law even with the little resources we have. I have to admit that I am fully aware of the challenges faced by the staff of the Forestry Commission in the discharge of their duties, especially Wildlife Officers who sometimes lose their lives on the job from attacks by poachers,” he said.
Mr Owusu-Bio said Ministry was working hard to ensure that the Wildlife Bill was approved by Cabinet and subsequently passed by Parliament into Law this year.
“We have already done a lot of work on the Draft Bill and I am confident that it will be passed,” he added.
He called on the media to join the crusade in creating awareness on wildlife resources, their roles in the livelihood of people and the need to protect and sustainably use these resources.
Mr. Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, Chief Executive of Forestry Commission, said the economic, social and ecological values of wildlife far outweigh the consumptive use of the Bushmeat trade.
He said wildlife demonstrates the enormous importance of this natural heritage for human well-being and national development.
He called on chiefs to help revise those innovative taboo and totemic systems that could contribute to wildlife conservation and sustain all forms of life on earth.
Mr Afriyie proposed the development of a National Framework for Enhancing the Innovative Traditional Norms and Practices for Sustaining All Forms of Life (Biodiversity) to support the development of traditional strategies that contribute to the conservation of wildlife and their habitats.
He urged the local communities and traditional authorities to embrace government’s initiative of protecting the wildlife reserves, the creation of Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs)and Community Wildlife Management Areas(CWMAs), which is a system by which the government through the Wildlife Division is supporting local communities to own and manage the wildlife resources within their local jurisdiction.
He said the Forestry Commission will provide technical assistance to communities for the creation and management of the CREMAs and sacred groves.
Bernard Asamoah-Boateng, the Acting Executive Director of the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission, said the existing wildlife law appeared to be ineffective in dealing with the protection of wildlife resources.
However, he said, the Division was dealing with the challenges head on by pursuing ecotourism ventures in the various protected areas to improve the economic contribution of Ghana’s wildlife to the nation’s economy and developing livelihood opportunities around wildlife for the benefit of local communities fringing wildlife protected areas.
It is also building the capacity of staff to enforce laws that protect wildlife and developing new infrastructure such as the museum and wildlife gallery in Shai Hills as well as the conduct of awareness programmes in communities to sensitize them on emerging Wildlife crimes.
Currently, the Wildlife Division manages two Zoos, five Ramsar Sites and 16 Protected Areas.